Most teenagers don’t realize that “sexting” — the practice of sending sexually explicit pictures or messages to their romantic interests — can send them to prison. In Michigan, sexting involving a minor is considered child pornography.

Here’s something that many parents don’t realize: Minors can be charged with felony child pornography under Michigan’s 1931 Child Sexually Abusive Material Law for creating and sharing obscene material using their own bodies.

Consider this:

  • If your underage child snaps a nude or sexually explicit selfie, that could be considered “creating child pornography,” which is a felony that can result in a 20-year sentence.
  • If your child then sends that selfie to someone else, that could be another charge — for distributing sexually abusive material involving a child. That carries a potential seven-year sentence.
  • If your child’s underage love interest sends a lewd selfie back and your child saves it, that’s possession of child pornography — and another possible four years in jail.

While there’s no official count of cases of this type of activity that have ended up in the justice system, prosecutors in the state admit that they see a few cases every year. They say that the law forces them to take an “all or nothing” approach that isn’t always appropriate to the situation.

If you’re the parent of a teenager or preteen, it’s important to remind your kids that any electronic image they take has the potential to end up on the internet forever. Even if they absolutely trust the recipient, data breaches happen all the time. They also need to understand the potential legal ramifications of this activity.

If your teen is charged with a sexting-related crime, a strong, experienced defense may be able to help. Find out more about what can be done to protect your child’s future.