Teens With Phones: The Next Big Thing For Child Porn

Kiddie porn! Twelve-year-olds photographed against their will by mustachioed 40-year-old perverts and passed around to other perverts! Except it's also photos of high schoolers, taken by high schoolers, and passed around to other high schoolers, like the photos and video of two girls (one showing her breasts, the other having sex with a boy) that spread throughout an Allentown, PA high school for six weeks before the cops started to investigate. Students say everyone at the 3200-student Parkland High School got a copy, usually on their cell phones. So did students at another high school and at Temple and Harvard. So who goes to jail when underage teens possess underage teen porn?

Technically, it is illegal for any person to knowingly receive or possess child pornography. Anyone who gets a cell phone message promising child porn and opens it is breaking federal law, regardless of their age. They also break the law by not immediately deleting the porn. In this case, the district attorney says that at least forty identified recipients will not be prosecuted as long as they show police their phones to prove the porn has been erased. Of course, this only works if none of the recipients forwarded it to their computers — or to anyone else. And since the stuff has already spread, this investigation came too late.

Of course, these aren't the only underage pics floating around. Self-made underage porn has been popular for years. I got and sent nude photos in high school. My girlfriend's ex still owns pictures of her at 16. You don't think of it as child porn when you're sending it to a classmate. The difference between legal and illegal is flashing a tit in your MySpace pic. The law will stop you about as much as it's stopped teen sex.

In fact, there could be more underage nude pics passed between underage viewers than what we traditionally think of as child porn. No one knows just how much child porn actually exists, because it's technically illegal to research it, according to an article in Salon (the site retracted the article after a subject threatened to sue, but the author defended her point). Only law enforcement is allowed to possess the material, so only they can estimate its impact — or even define it. There can be no public discourse over the issue, since all opinions must be distanced from the actual material in question. But soon we'll have to decide: Should a boy really go to jail if his girlfriend sends him a naked photo?