Sexting. With technological advances, it’s a word most of us have become familiar with in recent years.
While the act of sending and receiving nude photos via an electronic device can create challenges for adults, image the havoc it can cause for teens.
There are state laws on the books to deal with the issue, but the village of Pewaukee is taking matters into its own hands. An ordinance was recently passed that would allow hundreds of dollars to be levied against kids sending nude photos.
Under Wisconsin law, teens who sext could face child pornography charges, which may be heard in juvenile court where judges have more flexibility with sentencing. But now, officials in Pewaukee have another avenue — a municipal fine.
"It’s just like another tool in the toolbox. We can issue a municipal citation for $439 for the first offense and $628 for a second offense," says Pewaukee Police Chief Timothy Heier.
He says the ordinance, which was passed a week ago, was drafted by the police department after the school resource officer noticed an uptick in sexting complaints. Heier says most recently:
“Two people consensually exchanged photographs — both minors. People found out about it. It was kind of a breakup. There were also situations of threats being made because people were now talking disparaging about other people. Friends knew about it and we actually had to interview about 12 people regarding one consensual encounter between minors sending photographs."
Heier says the ordinance could be enforced once complaints are made either in school or out.
“We get walk-in complaints at our front counter. We get complaints like this where somebody hears about this, parents find it on their kids' phones and so forth, and we investigate that way,” Heier says.
If a family can't afford to pay the fines, he says there are other options.
“Community service could be looked at. And how much would be determined by the city attorney and the judge,” Heier says.
As far as parents are concerned, Heier says he hasn’t yet heard any complaints. Though, no citations have yet been written.
“They were very happy that we were proactive and talking to parents. It seems like this is something that they’re very concerned about and that in some cases they have heard or know about other kids that have passed on other photographs that were never brought to the attention of police. And that they’re very happy with the fact that we’re taking an approach that hasn’t been done before in the village,” Heier says.
The ordinance is modeled after one in Stevens Point, according to Heier.