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Posted at 03:11 PM ET, 06/06/2011

Sexting teens need education, not jail, New York lawmakers say


A teen and a cell phone can be a dangerous combination. (Photo from Bigstockphoto.com)
Whether done by a middle school student or (perhaps) a member of Congress, sexting — the act of sending sexually explicit text and images via cell phone, Web cam or by any other electronic means — has a siren- like quality: It’s alluring to the sexter, but may end up getting them in a lot of trouble.

While actress Reese Witherspoon advised would-be sexters to hide their faces, lawmakers in New York and other states are trying to deal with the issue by putting a stop to the felony child pornography charges some teens, like ones in Virginia and Pennsylvania, have faced.

New York lawmakers introduced the “Cyber-Crime Youth Rescue Act” Friday, which would create an “educational reform program” that would teach sexters about the danger associated with the act and provide prosecutors and judges with an alternative to harsher charges, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In Texas, a bill that would allow offending teens younger than 17 to be charged with a misdemeanor, instead of a felony, was sent to Gov. Rick Perry Friday, while a similar bill passed the Pennsylvania House in May. Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana and Illinois have passed laws that lessen sexting charges in some cases.

Aurora Eller, who appeared on “The View” on Monday, could benefit from these laws. At 13, she said she started communicating with a man in a chat room and, at his insistence, performed sexual acts with a friend on a Web cam while under the influence of alcohol. Eller, who is home schooled due to an illness, said she felt pressured by the man, who has not been identified. Now at 16, she’s facing child pornography charges and, according to lawyer and wiredsafety.com founder Parry Aftab, could become a registered sex offender.

Aftab said Eller will attend the 12th Annual WiredKids Summit at the Russell Senate Building Wednesday to help raise awareness about the dangers of sexting.

What do you think of the new law proposed in New York? Let us know in the comments.

By  |  03:11 PM ET, 06/06/2011

 
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