'Sexting': Should Child Pornography Laws Apply?

"I think it's an important case and Phillip is a good person," said Walters. "He's also a perfect spokesperson for this issue because terrible things happened to him and he can make a difference in people's lives by showing that the law is serious and bad things will happen if you engage in this behavior, but also, maybe show the lawmakers that the law needs to be changed."

Walters acknowledged that Alpert had distributed images of an underage girl.

"Phillip did something that about 20 or 30 percent of high school students do, and it is a mistake, it is something that shouldn't be done, nobody condones," said Walters. "On the other hand, we have a legal system that treats this behavior as something horrendous, on par with child molestation -- and it simply isn't ... the law simply hasn't recognized this unique phenomenon of children texting, or sexting each other, in high school."

Vanessa Hudgens of "High School Musical" fame and "Hannah Montana"'s Miley Cyrus apologized a couple of years ago for sexy pictures of them that came out. It's the kind of thing that may enhance a star's career -- or at least not impede it -- but can land everyday ordinary teens in trouble with the law.

"One thing is I think we may be sending mixed messages to teens right now, because mainstream culture is showing teens in all sorts of sexual scenarios," said Adler. "Mainstream television with "Gossip Girl," showing teens hooking up, Miley Cyrus engaging in what many people thought was pole dancing at the "Teen Choice Awards." So on the one hand we have mainstream sexual depiction of teens, and on the other hand we're telling teens that if they do that themselves, they can go to jail."

Sexting: 'It's an Odd Situation'

Plenty of teens are finding that out. In Iowa, Jorge Canal had to register as a sex offender, like Alpert, for sending a nude picture of himself to a 15-year-old girl. He was 18 at the time. In separate cases in Pennsylvania and Ohio, kids who've sent or received and distributed sexy photos have agreed to curfew, community service, or no cell phone or Internet usage for a few months.

"Child pornography law was crafted to protect children from pedophiles, that's the idea behind it," said Adler. "But now what we have is the law applying to situations where the child himself or herself is making the pornography. So it's this odd situation where suddenly the pornographer and the victim are one in the same person. And in my view that's not the kind of scenario that child pornography law should cover."

Three states -- Nebraska, Utah and Vermont -- have already changed their laws. Fourteen other states, including Florida, where Alpert lives, are considering changes.

"We have a House bill, 1335, that is -- has been proposed," said Walters. "It would treat sexting as a non-criminal offense. In other words, a child or a teenager who sent these pictures or created the pictures would get a $25 fine and be forced to do community service. That would wake them up to the fact that this is an illegal activity and they shouldn't be doing this, this is wrong. And then if they do this a second or a third time, the punishments go up. That, in my view, is an appropriate way to approach this."

Adler talked about how the cases might be tried.

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