One of the abuses of cell phones that Officers Knaul and Weeks have encountered in district schools and in the community is sexting. Officer Weeks said sexting is loosely defined as use of electronic communication to send sexually explicit messages or photos, primarily between cell phones. Possessing or disseminating this material is a felony when the subject of the photo is under 18 years old. Officer Weeks said that many students and parents are still not aware that this is a crime, or that parents are responsible for anything their children send with a cell phone or store on a cell phone.
Officers Knaul and Weeks noted that there is not one specific law that addresses sexting, but a whole gamut of laws under which it may fall including obscenity laws, pornography laws and endangering the welfare of a child. Anyone using a cell phone to possess or disseminate sexually explicit material of a minor (17 years old and under) could be charged with a felony and required to register as a sex offender.
Officer Weeks said that in Onondaga County the district attorney considers sexting cases based on each case's own conditions and characteristics, including who sent what to whom, how many times and what the intent of the photo(s) or message(s) was. Officer Weeks said that cases in which girlfriends and boyfriends share explicit photos of each other, over the cell phone, for their eyes only are quite different from cases in which individuals forward explicit photos of someone for various reasons, including revenge or for money.
Officers Knaul and Weeks advise parents to be vigilant in checking their children's cell phones to see who they are communicating with and what they are sending, receiving and storing on their cell phones. If you would like to speak with Officers Knaul and Weeks regarding cell phones, sexting or any other matter of concern, you can contact Officer Knaul at 638-5610 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Officer Weeks can be contacted at 635-4566 or email@example.com.