Smartphones have not just revolutionized the way that humans share information and communicate with one another but have also changed the way teenagers romantically connect. Instead of spending long hours speaking on a land line, teens of today are more likely to flirt and arrange dates via text message or an app. Texting lacks the intimacy of a face to face meeting or lengthy phone call that most adults grew up with. The smartphone solution allows teenagers to send videos and pictures of themselves instantly. Every parent should panic at the thought of this!

Sending pictures has become commonplace among teenagers under 18. Sometimes this involves sexually explicit pictures or messages, or “sexting”. Any person, even another minor, who receives that material may be charged with receiving sexually explicit material involving images of a minor, which is a felonious offense.

Relationships between classmates and peers become even more complicated once an adolescent reaches the age of 18, but their friends have not. Consider the circumstance of an 18-year-old dating a 15-year-old. If this couple participates in sexting, the 18-year-old could be presented with some serious criminal issues. If drugs or alcohol are involved, then the 18-year-old may have committed a felony of unlawful transaction with a minor. As an adult, these actions carry more permanent and serious consequences than those of a minor.

Another important issue to discuss with your child is legal consent to sexual encounters. If your child is 21 years old and has a sexual encounter with any person under the age of 16 years old, they may be charged with statutory rape. In Kentucky the legal age of consent is 16. That means that any person under the age of 16 cannot consent to any sexual activity. Warn your teenagers to avoid all romantic encounters with someone who is more than two years younger than themselves. It is easier not to have loved at all than to have loved and become a felon.

If you have young adults in your life, take some time to speak with them about the legal ramifications of becoming an adult. It is important for young adults to understand that the law treats those who are younger than 18 years old much differently than those who are 18 years old or older. While your teenager may view sexting, sharing drugs or alcohol, and even sex, as a normal part of adolescence, it can jeopardize their future. It is important for you to explain the potentially life altering consequences of these actions, especially when involving an adolescent under the age of 16.

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