House Bill 1742 takes a measured approach to modernizing state law to reflect a world where nearly every teen carries and communicates prolifically with his or her own cellphone. It would decriminalize the act of minors sharing their own revealing selfies with other teens aged 13 or older and not consider it child pornography.
Teens who make the mistake of texting nude photos of themselves to a friend should be treated like stupid kids, not criminals.
A smart bipartisan proposal in the Legislature would remove the potential of a felony sex offense for sending these pictures — unless they are being used for harassment, extortion or another crime.
Current law allows teens to be labeled as sex offenders for texting intimate pictures of themselves to their friends. The state’s child pornography laws do not distinguish between teen sexting and adults who take explicit photos of children for exploitation, which is also known as distributing child pornography.
Do you have something to say?Share your opinion by sending a Letter to the Editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and please include your full name, address and telephone number for verification only. Letters are limited to 200 words.
House Bill 1742, which passed in the House Monday, takes a measured approach to modernizing state law to reflect a world where nearly every teen carries and communicates prolifically with his or her own cellphone. It would decriminalize the act of minors sharing their own revealing selfies with other teens aged 13 or older and not consider it child pornography.
Sharing intimate photos may not be something their parents endorse, but the teens who do it should not spend up to 30 days in juvenile detention, pay up to a $500 fine and be placed on the adult sex offender registry.
The proposal, sponsored in the House by Rep. Noel Frame, D-Seattle, and in the Senate by Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, does not condone this behavior; it says teens distributing their own photos should not be treated the same as adults dealing in child pornography.
Appropriately, teens who distribute photos or videos of other teens who are naked or engaged in sex acts could still be punished. Selling such pictures or financing their creation would be a felony sex offense, but distributing them would be a simple or gross misdemeanor, depending on the type of sexually explicit conduct shown.
The proposal also would allow teens distributing these pictures of other minors age 13 or older to be diverted to community service and counseling instead of serving time in youth detention. Penalties for malicious distribution would still apply.
The bill would also create a work group to make recommendations to the Legislature regarding age-appropriate prevention and intervention strategies. Both criminal and defense attorneys testified that this new approach to teen sexting is long overdue.
The bill balances the need to appropriately punish teens who are harassing other minors, while exempting those who share these images of themselves with their friends.
Adolescents should not be labeled child pornographers for taking naked selfies and texting them to their friends. The Legislature should pass House Bill 1742 so these young people will not continue to pay for their teen indiscretions as adults.
Correction: This editorial, originally published March 5, incorrectly stated that teens could find themselves guilty of a felony for disseminating naked photos or videos of other teens. Selling these photos or financing their creation would be a felony. Distributing them would be a simple or gross misdemeanor, depending on the type of sexually explicit conduct shown.