A 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy from Valparaiso have been charged with possession of child pornography and child exploitation after it was discovered they were using their cell phones to exchange nude pictures of themselves with each other.
The "sexting" case is being dealt with in Indiana's juvenile court system. In adult court, they could have faced 11 years in prison and been forced to register as sex offenders.
The images were discovered last week when the girl's phone sounded during class and the teacher confiscated it.
An investigation revealed the boy sent the girl an explicit photo of himself Jan. 17 and asked her to use her cellular phone to send back a similar picture of herself, which she did, police said. Police also learned the girl showed the picture of the boy to a seventh-grade friend.
Porter County Deputy Prosecutory Cheryl Polark told the Northwest Indiana Times that young people don't understand the ramifications of texting nude pictures or posting certain material on social networking sites like Facebook. She said a nude picture could end up being shared with half the school and could get in the hands of people who seek out child pornography.
A recent study from the Pew Research Center reported that 15 percent of teens ages 12-17 say they've received on their cell phones sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of someone they know.
Indiana's House and Senate are both considering bills to separate "sexting" from child pornography laws.