Public Attitudes towards Penalties for Sexting by Minors
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Current child pornography laws in Australia extend to cases where minors transmit sexually explicit material of themselves or others via digital communication (‘sexting’). This is the first study examining attitudes of the Australian adult public regarding criminal laws that can apply to sexting by minors. A sample of 285 Australian adults completed an online questionnaire that presented a scenario concerning adolescent sexting. Participants completed measures of perceived responsibility and deservingness of penalty for both the sext sender and recipient who, in some cases, also forwarded the sext. Overall, support for legal penalties for adolescent sexting was low, except in the case of non-consensual distribution of sexts. The results highlight the public’s concern with the non-consensual forwarding of sexts, providing support for calls to distinguish between consensual and non-consensual sexting in legislation and educational and public campaigns.
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