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Most teenagers have ready access to smart phones and social media.  While smart phones and social media sites are modern conveniences that allow us to freely communicate with others, their accessibility have given Illinois lawmakers issue for concern.  Because most smart phones have cameras, teenagers can easily take images on their phones and upload those images on the internet.  While this can be a valuable tool to take and upload pictures of innocent portrayals of such things as get-togethers with friends and exciting life events, the ability to take and upload photos to the internet also allows teenagers to post harmful materials and images.

While most teens are responsible with smart phone and social media use, others have used this technology to take sexually provocative photographs of themselves or others.  This is referred to as “Sexting.” Illinois lawmakers have taken this issue very seriously.

Illinois law states that a minor shall not distribute or disseminate an indecent visual depiction of another minor using a computer or electronic communication device.  Illinois courts have also determined that minors may not disseminate indecent images of themselves.  Doing so can subject a minor to prosecution for various criminal offenses that carry very serious penalties including requiring a minor to register as a sex offender.
For example, if a minor takes a sexually explicit photograph of themselves on their smart phone and forwards that image to their significant other through text message or social media, that minor has committed multiple criminal offenses.  The mere act of taking the photograph can result in criminal prosecution for creating child pornography even when the image depicts themselves.  Saving or keeping that image on their smart phone could result in prosecution for the offense of possessing child pornography.  Forwarding the image to another person could subject the minor to prosecution for distribution of child pornography.  The recipient of such image may subject themselves to possession of child pornography as well if the image is not immediately deleted from their phone or social media account.
Potential punishments for such conduct may include criminal conviction and having to register as a sex offender.  The consequences of such conduct may have permanent life changing consequences for a minor.  Aside from the criminal consequences, a minor that engages in this conduct may face other consequences such as reputational harm.

Parents should talk to their teenagers about the responsible use of smart phones and social media and the potential consequences of making and distributing indecent images on their smart phones or other electronic devices.

If you have any questions regarding this Illinois law, please contact our office at (309)-662-5084.