Saturday February 16, 2013

LENOX -- The perils of "sexting" -- sending sexually explicit messages and photographs by cellphone -- include potential criminal prosecution, according to Berkshire Second Assistant District Attorney Robert W. Kinzer III.

As the head of the DA’s computer crime unit, which includes several state troopers, Kinzer cited "kids, young adults, even adults who think it is a good idea to take nude or semi-nude photos of themselves on their cellphones and send them to other people via text message."

Youngsters who are under 18 fail to realize that they have created and manufactured child pornography, Kinzer warned a group of parents during an informational session at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School this past week.

"When you send that text message, you have disseminated child pornography" and when it is shared and shown to others, they are in possession of child pornography, he pointed out.

"We do not have any exceptions in our law for kids who are really in love, for girls who wanted to do it and for guys who promised they wouldn’t share it, or for two kids who are dating," Kinzer said. "A nude photo of [a minor’s] exposed genitalia is child pornography."

The prosecutor explained that he has spread the word at schools throughout Berkshire County.

"I’m done telling what the law is," Kinzer said. "When they start sharing photos like this, we are going to start charging people with the manufacturing, dissemination and possession of child pornography, and they’re going to go to court.

"They’re going to face [prosecution], probably not jail time unless they’ve got bad records. But that’s OK. They’ll just be put on probation and they’ll get to register as a sex offender, and that’s a great box to check off on any job application," he continued. "You’re going to lose jobs and relationships, and you’ll spend the rest of your life as a registered sex offender."

Kinzer listed new programs and applications that promote the sharing of explicit photos and messages -- including one that allows users to select Facebook "friends" as sex partners for casual "hook-up" encounters.

He told parents that "kids as young as 13 or 14 are using Facebook and getting access to information like this, and they’re taking photos like that, not appreciating the dangers, the short-term and long-term consequences.

"Strangers can definitely hurt them, but [young people] have the biggest potential to hurt themselves. We need to make sure they understand what is out there and what can happen. Let’s educate ourselves so we can communicate meaningfully with them and let’s set clear, firm boundaries that we adhere to."

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter:@BE_cfanto