With the majority of Utah kids having their first cell phone by age 10-12, it is important that parents discuss sexting laws and how they apply to minors.
Electronic dirty talk
One practice that continues to rise in popularity among Utah teens is sexting. According to dictionary.com, sexting is defined as “the sending of sexually explicit photos, images, text messages, or e-mails by using a cell phone or other mobile device.” While many teens get away with sexting time and time again, it is against the law and will result in criminal penalties if they are caught.
Utah sexting laws
Currently every state has a law that criminalizes sexting that includes images of minors, although many states group sexting in with child pornography or sexual exploitation of a minor. There are three laws in the Utah State Code that teens should be aware of before they send, receive, or share explicit images or videos of other teens.
Sexual exploitation of a minor
According to Utah Code 76-5b-201, “(1) A person is guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor: when the person:
(i) knowingly produces, possesses, or possesses with intent to distribute child pornography; or
(ii) intentionally distributes or views child pornography; ( . . . )
Sexual exploitation of a minor is a second degree felony and charges for sexual exploitation of a minor can be multiplied depending on how many minors are depicted and/or how many times the same minor appears in different pictures or videos.
Giving explicit material to minors
Utah Code 76-10-1206 warns “(1)A person is guilty of dealing in material harmful to minors when, knowing or believing that a person is a minor, or having negligently failed to determine the proper age of a minor, the person intentionally:
(a) distributes or offers to distribute, or exhibits or offers to exhibit, to a ( . . . ), any material harmful to minors;
(b) produces, performs, or directs any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors; or
(c) participates in any performance, before a minor ( . . . ) that is harmful to minors.
(2) (a) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 18 years of age or older is a third degree felony ( . . . )
(b) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person 16 or 17 years of age is a class A misdemeanor.
(c) Each separate offense under this section committed by a person younger than 16 years of age is a class B misdemeanor.”
Utah code 76-10-1203 states “(1) Any material or performance is pornographic if:
(a) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, finds that, taken as a whole, it appeals to prurient interest in sex;
(b) It is patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion; and
(c) Taken as a whole it does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
If someone shares or otherwise distributes or attempts to distribute pornographic material, adults 18 and older may face a third degree felony for each item of pornographic material shared or produced while 16-17 year olds face a class A misdemeanor, and under 16 year olds face a class B misdemeanor.
What’s posted on the internet stays on the internet
With so many options to “delete” content shared, too many teens have the false sense of security that they can share a picture or video briefly and never have to worry about it again. Unfortunately, what’s posted on the internet stays on the internet. Besides other individuals who screenshot or otherwise save things they’ve been sent online, the internet has a way of somehow storing embarrassing or incriminating pictures forever. It is important to warn teens that sexually explicit images or videos that are shared can resurface and that type of content will result in criminal charges.