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Opening Arguments

Sex is in the air

From texting we move to to "sexting," the electronic transmission of sexually explicit material. The General Assembly is considering making that activity by teens a "delinquent act" not because it isn't currently covered by law but because the current statutes leave authorities with only two extreme options: Do nothing, or hit the kids with a felony that would require them to register as sex offenders and follow them for the rest of their lives. The new law would express disapproval without being quite so draconian.

But an interesting change has apparently been made in the proposed bill. The ban on showing minors "in a state of nudity" was changed to forbid "minors engaging in sexual conduct."

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, asked why the bill applies to children between the ages of 16 and 18 who take pictures of themselves. She said Indiana's age of consent for sexual activity is 16.

"If you're old enough to do that, then why aren't you old enough to take a picture of yourself and show it to someone?" Tallian said.

I'm not sure the bill as amended will do exactly what the legislators hope it will. According to a report from Pew Research, 15 percent of teens between 12 and 17 who own cell phones say they have received "sexually explicit" material over them, which seems to consist mostly of nude photographs, some involving "provocative" poses. The exchanges seem to be mostly between romantic partners or couples in which at least one wants to be a romantic partner. The trouble starts when a photo -- gasp! how could it happen? -- gets sent beyond the intended recipient and goes into a general-population viewing pool.

But the measure was approved unanimously by the Senate's committee on corrections, criminal and civil matters, so right now it's alive as amended.