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How Modern Mobile Apps Set Up Students to Commit Cyber Crimes

Today’s news headlines are full of stories about teenagers who are being prosecuted nationwide for sexting, or sending explicit pictures to other teenagers via modern mobile apps like Snapchat and Instagram.

For example, in May, 2014, authorities arrested two middle school boys and a minor girl in Chicago on child pornography trafficking charges. The boys had distributed pictures and video of the girl performing sexual acts to other students at the school. This was not an isolated incident. Several teenagers were arrested in Chicago, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and faced felony child pornography charges, which could label them as sex offenders for life.

All across the United States, teenagers are sexting, and authorities are responding by charging them with adult crimes that no one ever imagined would be applied to teenagers with cell phones.

Prevalence of Sexting in America Today

One study found that almost 20% of high school students between the ages of 14 and 18 admitted to sexting. Over 25% of college students admit to sexting. Around 15% of teens admit to sending nude or provocative pictures to people whom they never have met in person. A more recent study by Drexel University found that more than half of the college students surveyed admitted to sexting while they were teenagers, and more than 61% of the students had no idea that sending nude photos could be considered to be child pornography.

Many celebrities engage in sexting that becomes very public through apps such as Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Jesse James, Tiger Woods, and Selena Gomez are just a few of the celebrities who have experienced the repercussions of sexting a significant other or a mistress who later made the photos public. These incidents send the message to teens that it is perfectly acceptable to sext and exchange sexually explicit pictures. What’s more, mobile apps that are widely used by teenagers make it incredibly easy to do so.

Monitoring Teenagers’ Mobile Apps

What teenagers fail to realize is that the pictures that they believe they are sending to only a few selected people often end up widely circulated among many other people, both adults and minors. For instance, Snapchat is an app designed to erase an image that you have sent within a few seconds. However, there is nothing to prevent the recipient of the image from taking a screenshot of the image and distributing among different social media channels or sending it to different people.

The best way for parents to help their teenagers avoid running afoul of the law is to closely monitor their cell phones, computers, tablets, and social media platforms for inappropriate images.

Potential Violations of Texas Law

In the state of Texas, there are a number of laws that authorities may use to charge teens who have sexted, or distributed indecent photos or videos to other teens. For instance, Texas Penal Code Sec. 33.021, Online Solicitation of a Minor, provides that a person who is 17 or older violates the law if he or she communicates in a sexually explicit manner or distributes sexually explicit material to a minor. This includes communication via Internet, text message, e-mail, or another electronic message service or system. Violation of this provision of Texas law could result in a felony conviction for your teenager.

Call Your Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer for Help

If your teenager is convicted of a sexual offense in Texas, he or she should experience very severe consequences, including a felony record. What’s more, a simple search of the internet by a prospective school or employer could lead to the discovery of an image that your teenager never expected to be posted online or made available to the public. If your teenager is facing sex-related criminal charges, you should immediately contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates for assistance with your case from one of our skilled internet crimes lawyers.