In most states, teenagers who send or receive sexually explicit photographs by cell phone or computer—known as “sexting”—have risked felony child pornography charges and being listed on a sex-offender registry for decades to come. But there is growing consensus among lawyers and legislators that the child pornography laws are too blunt an instrument to deal with the phenomenon, reports the New York Times. Last year, Nebraska, Utah, and Vermont changed their laws to reduce penalties for teenagers who engage in such activities, and this year, according to the National Council on State Legislatures, 14 more states are considering legislation that would treat young people who engage in sexting differently from adult pornographers and sexual predators. And on March 17, the first federal appellate opinion in a sexting case recognized that a prosecutor had gone too far in trying to enforce adult moral standards. “There’s a lot of confusion about how to regulate cell phones and sex and 16-year-olds,” said Amy Adler, a law professor at New York University. “We’re at this cultural shift, not only because of the technology, but because of what’s happening in terms of the representation of teen sexuality.”

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staff and wire services reports