Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has attacked a Canadian professor's recent contention that teenagers should not face child pornography charges for electronically sending nude pictures of themselves to others.
Peter Cumming, an associate professor at York University in Toronto, presented a paper to 8,000 researchers in which he maintained that "sexting," or sending nude images through electronic text-type messages, is a fairly innocuous activity and similar to "playing doctor or spin-the-bottle."
Cumming maintains that "sexting" is a safer activity than other sexually related actions involving teens because there is no physical contact. He believes adults often overreact when such images are treated as pornography and said the stigma of labeling a teen as a sex offender for sending such images "defies common sense." Cumming said adults must make a distinction between nudity and child porn.
Shurtleff strongly disagrees.
"Children playing doctor or spin-the-bottle don't risk having millions of people, including child predators, looking at their nude photo from now until the end of time," Shurtleff said. "No matter how the professor spins it, the fact is that minors sending nude photos, images or videos are engaging in the production, manufacture and distribution of child pornography."
Shurtleff's office supervises the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force that checks into and prosecutes cases of child pornography and sexual exploitation of children on the Internet.
A federal study showed that one out of five teens in the U.S. had taken part in sending such images.
"We should be teaching our youth the consequences of their behavior, rather than excusing it," Shurtleff said. "Countless ICAC cases involve teens being exploited for the gratification or profit of others. Sexting leaves long-lasting scars."