A recently proposed plan would add sexting to the list of topics covered in Illinois sex education courses.
Middle and high schools in the state would be required to discuss with students the social, academic and legal consequences of sending or receiving sexually explicit images.
It was introduced by State Representative Maurice West of Rockford. He says a constituent reached out with the idea to expand a law passed last year about teaching consent.
West says classes would discuss the social ramifications of sending sexually explicit photos or videos. And it would also dovetail into a discussion of the legal and academic risks.
“My goddaughter is eight years old and she has an iPhone," said West. 'So yeah, our kids are getting younger with technology and there's nothing wrong with that. We need to make sure we help them to keep up with the consequences that technology can bring.”
A 2018 study found 89% of teenagers used smartphones, a number that’s likely higher today.
Even if an underage person takes a sexual picture of themselves, that’s considered child pornography and is a felony. And those found in possession of those images could be labeled a sex offender.
“Underage photos are underage photos, no matter who's sending it," said West. "It doesn't matter if a 16-year-old is sending it to another 16-year-old. It’s still considered child pornography in the law.”
West also says sexting can make them an easier target of sexual exploitation or sex trafficking.