(WMC) - Did you know teens sexting sexually suggestive messages, or sending nude photos to a boyfriend or girlfriend, could end up facing felony charges?
Police arrested three teens in Arkansas for racy photos they sent one another, and a dozen more teens in Missouri face charges. More than 100 teenagers in Virginia are being investigated for sharing what amounts to, in the eyes of the law, child pornography.
When it comes to parenting, this issue is another challenge in the brave new world of social media. It's a lesson Rentia Kellam learned after she was schooled on one of the apps her 15-year-old son Raymond has on his phone.
Apps like SnapChat, Wickr, and oovoo allow users to take a photo or video and send it, but the image self destructs on the other end in a matter of seconds.
"It's almost like a sneaky way of sexting," Kellam said.
Sneaky? Maybe. Safe? No way.
"There is kind of a catch there in that you can screen shot those images," said Rachel Folz, who is a digital producer for WXIX in Cincinnati. "You don't have any way to remove that image from their phone. No way to go back in time and get that image. It's on their phone and from there they can do whatever they want with it."
But for a lot of teens, they don't care that what they put out there will last forever. The Internet's been around their whole lives. It's not something they're scared of anymore. What should scare them is this: the pictures they send while sexting could land them in jail.
"If you take a photograph of yourself and you are under 18 and you distribute that you are distributing child pornography. The law makes no exception for that," legal analyst Steve Benjamin said.
Under the law, if a minor takes a "naked selfie," that's considered manufacturing child pornography. Sending it is distribution, and for the recipient, he or she is in possession of child pornography regardless of age.
Something else to keep in mind: experts say the consequences of sexting could also jeopardize a student's chance of receiving college scholarships and job offers.
Below are some of the most popular teen apps online, so parents can check them out for themselves.