As a parent, what should I tell my children about the new "sexting" law in Illinois?

Ideally, our children will heed our advice not to send revealing or sexually explicit images of themselves or others via text messaging, aka "sexting." But even the best children make mistakes or exercise poor judgment, and before January 1, 2011, a poor decision could have landed your teen in serious trouble.

A new law changes existing laws written before the internet and smart phones became tween and teen playgrounds. Before this loophole was closed, creating nude images of anyone under age 18 (including provocative self-portraits) constituted felony child pornography, and anyone sending these images via text message or posting on the internet could have been charged with felony distribution of child pornography and required to register as sex offenders.

This does not mean teens should not exercise good judgment, however. The new "sexting" law, House Bill 4583, provides more reasonable but still serious penalties, including allowing minors who send explicit images via a computer or electronic communication device (cell phone) can be taken into police custody and found in need of juvenile court supervision, court-ordered counseling and/or community service.

Traditional sex offender laws will still apply to situations where images are taken without a minor’s consent or by repeat offenders. The bottom line: make sure your children know the consequences of "sexting" and advise them to simply not do it. If you do find your child in a situation involving sexting, consult an attorney for advice.

*DISCLAIMER: The questions and answers presented on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship.