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'Sexting epidemic' putting young people's futures at risk

Imagine yourself in middle school or high school. Remember the mistakes you made, the hefty weight of peer pressure and the relationships you were navigating for the first time. Now imagine the decisions you made back then weren't left in the past: they were defining you today.

This is all just putting into context the serious struggles young people face these days when it comes to sharing messages. Instead of three-way calls and notes passed during class, teens now have their own cellphones, anonymous messaging apps and access to numerous social media sites. And these devices and services are making it easier for teens to engage in criminal sexual activity, whether they recognize that or not.

According to various studies, teens are increasingly sharing, sending and receiving sexually explicit images. One report notes that as many as 40 percent of high school students have received a so-called sext. Another study found that about 30 percent of minor students have sent these images.

But what may seem like harmless or fleeting fun to a teen can turn into a major life-changing decision if a young person is in possession of or sharing sexually explicit images of minors. It doesn't matter if he or she knows the person in the image or gives permission to share it; the fact is that in the eyes of the law, these images are considered child pornography.

Finding out that your child has sent, received or made explicit images or videos can be devastating for any parent. For many in this position, it comes as an incredible shock, especially if you have been talking to your kids about sexting and regularly check their phones. Sadly, parents all across Florida may find themselves in this situation.

It can be easy to feel angry and powerless in this situation, but it will be crucial that you act fast to protect your child. A conviction on charges related to child pornography can come with severe consequences, including the requirement to register as a sex offender.

Rather than let your child fall victim to the so-called "sexting epidemic," you can consult a criminal defense attorney to examine your options to protect your child and your child's future in the event that he or she is accused of sexual misconduct.

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