The Family Online Safety Institute releases a brief on Sexting: Felony or Flirting?
Some categorize the practice of sexting as youthful risk taking, others define it as modern day flirting and there are others that believe it to be a felony. The reasons behind teenagers sending naked pictures of themselves to others has been discussed at length among industry experts and academic researchers, and opinions vary greatly about how best to respond. However, it is the response and plans of legislators and law enforcement officials that is of particular interest.
The punishment of those engaged in sexting, typically defined as the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone, has varied around the United States and around the world. Some US states have chosen to prosecute minors to the full extent of the law, resulting in severe punishment up to and including the requirement to register as a sex offender for life. In contrast, other states have developed diversionary programs designed to educate teenagers and change behaviors. To date, there has been no specific Federal response to this behavior. However it is clear to many that the use of criminal laws should be reserved to punish those for whom they were created, and not as a catchall for imprudent teens.