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‘Sexting’ bill moves closer to becoming New Jersey law

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Juveniles caught sending sexually explicit photographs via their cell phones would not face criminal prosecution but, rather, receive intense education, if the state Senate approves a new law intended to curb “sexting.”

The Assembly approved the measure unanimously, and today it cleared the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. If the full Senate approves, all it would need is the governor’s signature to become law.

Sponsored by a trio of Assemblywomen, including Bergen’s Valerie Vainieri Huttle, the proposal clarifies child pornography laws that in several states have led to criminal charges against youngsters.

“This has become a growing problem because technology has changed so rapidly, making it hard for parents to keep up and for teens to understand the ramifications of this behavior,” Vainieri Huttle said. “This bill creates a nuanced approach to the issue, one that recognizes that kids will do foolish things, while also creating a serious mechanism to address the problem.”

According to a 2008 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, roughly one-in-five teens – including 11 percent of girls aged 13 to 16 – have sent a nude or semi-nude picture or video of themselves to friends or posted one on a Web site.

The measure would create an educational program as an alternative to prosecution for juveniles who otherwise could be charged with a criminal offense for posting or sending sexually suggestive or sexually explicit photographs.

Participants would learn about the potential state and federal legal consequences and penalties for sexting as well as its personal costs – including the effect on relationships, its impact on school life and the loss of future employment opportunities. County prosecutors would determine who could be admitted. Those juveniles who successfully complete the program would avoid charges.

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