Just because you’re not technically an adult doesn’t mean that you don’t have rights. Even as a minor under the age of 18, you are protected by laws and rights that prevent people from taking advantage of you.
But this also means that you have responsibilities, too. Just because you’re not an adult doesn’t mean that you can do what you want and not get in trouble. Make sure you’re familiar with the following laws so that you can stay out of trouble and prevent other people from getting hurt.
Age of criminal responsibility: Even if you are not adult, you can still be held responsible for a crime you commit. Depending on the crime committed and the court where you are tried, you could be considered an adult and therefore go to an adult correctional facility as punishment. As a minor the age of prosecution begins at 10 years old.
Age of consent: Age of consent laws are reserved for the individual states, meaning that each state will have a different law. In general, though, anyone under the age of 16, 17, or 18 is considered a minor and is not able to reasonably consent to sex or sexual acts.
Even if you are above the age of consent in your state, remember that you don’t have to have sex if you don’t think you are ready. Sex is a big commitment and should be reserved for loving and trusting relationships.
No matter your age, if someone is pressuring you into having sex with them or doing sexual acts, it is called sexual abuse and is a crime. Talk to an adult you trust or call one of the safe agencies on our Who to Contact page about what’s happening.
Discrimination laws: If someone ever says mean or rude things to you because of the color of your skin, the way you look, the language you speak, or where you come from, they are breaking laws about anti-discrimination.
If someone continually makes fun of you over social media sites, texting, or online chatting, it is called cyberbullying. There are things you can do to stand up to cyberbullies—check out our page on it.
Cyberbullying: Anyone who says mean or rude things to you online that make you feel scared, threatened, or uncomfortable is being a cyberbully. Each state has its own laws about how to handle cyberbullying, but you should report any time someone makes you feel uncomfortable online, no matter how small or insignificant you think it is.
Sexting laws: Sexting may seem exciting and may make you feel like an adult, but if you’re not aware of the laws, you could get yourself or the person you’re sending pictures into a lot of trouble.
Sexting is considered a form of pornography, and there are many laws in place to protect teens from seeing or being used in pornography.
If you are under the age of 18 and send a naked selfie or picture of yourself with exposed genitals, the person who receives that photo on their phone or computer is technically breaking the law, even if that person is your boyfriend or girlfriend. However, if you are 18 and send a sext message or sexual photo to someone who is not 18, you are breaking the law, even if you’re just sending it to a friend or your boyfriend/girlfriend.
If someone ever pressures you into taking sexual or naked photos of yourself, it’s called sexual abuse. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want, even if the person asking is your boyfriend, girlfriend, or a member of your family. Talk to an adult you trust or use our Who to Contact page to find someone to talk to about how to stand up to and stop the situation.