THE intent is to stop the traffic of child pornography, but young people themselves are increasingly becoming entangled in laws designed to protect them.
And the issue catching them out is sexting - or the sharing of sexual images, naked 'selfies' or messages.
Whilst it is legal for two 16-year-olds to have sexual intercourse, engaging sexually via electronic means under the age of 18 has the potential for serious repercussions.
And more and more, Victoria Police, schools, community legal centres and youth organisations are dealing with young people who are playing in dangerous territory.
Bendigo Police Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Morris says the consequences for some are severe
"A teenage couple can start engaging with one saying 'send me a pic of yourself' and often then a photo, usually of the girl, will be forwarded,'' he says.
"The kids are then transmitting child pornography.
"The law is framed in a way that 16 is the age of consent for sexual contact... but pornography under the age of 18 is defined as child pornography.''
That means, if a young person is asking for a sexual image of person under 18, they can be charged with procurement (inviting child pornography).
A person taking the image can be charged with production of child pornography and if they send the image, could be charged with transmitting or distributing.
The person receiving the image can be charged with possession.
If that person forwards the image, they too can face transmission charges.
There are defences to possession, for example if the accused was not more than two years older than the minor was or appeared to be; if the minor or one of the minors depicted in the film or photograph was the accused or if it was believed the person depicted was over 18.
But under the section 57A of the classification (publication, films and computer games (enforcement) Act, none of those are defences to transmission.
So in effect, a young person may escape a possession charge, but still face charges for transmitting child pornography.
In some cases, magistrates have been left with no option than to register young people on the sex offender's register.
"The concern for us is that kids aren't getting it,'' Detective Senior Sergeant Morris says.
"They are a bit apathetic and it's not that they don't care, they just get caught up in what they're doing and how they live.
"They don't think - and the last thing they're thinking of are the legal ramifications.
"It's mostly girls sending the photos and guys keeping them and forwarding them on to others.
"Both sexes are doing it and I don't want to single one sex out over another, but I've noticed there seems to be a trend of males asking girls for photos.
"We don't want to see kids falling foul of the law in these sorts of circumstances.
"And it's not really about the two of them.
"The idea is to stop the images circulating and to stop the traffic of material.''
Courtney Lucanto is a social worker who runs the Sex, Young People and the Law program through the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre.
She says there is a growing need for the program, which covers sex and consent, sexting and cyber bullying.
"The laws around child pornography were made to protect children from exploitation or abuse from older people, so the laws were not made specifically for sexting or other technological acts which may be between young people,'' she says.
"Young people are surprised by the law.
"It’s always a concern where young people engage in behaviour in which they don’t know of the possible consequences, particularly when there could be a legal consequence.
"There are a few different circumstances which the law doesn’t necessarily distinguish between.
"The law doesn't necessarily acknowledge the difficult context in which this behaviour can occur - sometimes the legal consequences can overshadow the impact on somebody.
"Sometimes debate over the appropriateness of legal consequences for young people who engage in sexting can minimalise the negative impact when there has been behaviour which is malicious in its intent, including where people have broken up and then release or threaten to release sexual pictures which were taken when young people were in the previous relationship.
"Some people can say this type of behaviour can occur and is a mistake; however calling it a once off mistake doesn’t erase the potential of an ongoing negative impact for someone.
"It can be devastating for someone who hasn't given consent for something to be passed on.''
Ms Lucanto believes families need to have honest conversations about the issue.
"It isn't easy for adults to have the conversation, and it's not about judging.
"It's important to set up a space of trust.''
That conversation also needs to be about healthy relationships, she says.
"A healthy relationship means you don't feel pressured to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
"It’s important to acknowledge that the participation in sexting and taking naked ‘selfies’ can be part of a wider pattern of negotiations of gendered sexual behaviour for young people.
"If there is been unequal power, people don't feel as safe to say they don't want to do something.
"There has been a focus over many years on the sexual behaviour of young people and naturally the sexualised use of technology can be a point of concern for parents and adults.''
Detective Senior Sergeant Morris agrees, saying these issues are new to parents still trying to negotiate their way around modern technology.
"It's a tough road for them - when do you intrude on (a young person's) privacy and when do you respect it?
"But they're young, you've got to watch them.
"You're their safety net, it's a fine line but you need to snoop a little.
"A lot of mums and dads are finding messages and child pornography is not just images, it also includes written content that describes acts of sex with kids under 18.
"You can have text messages that still fit the definition of child pornography.''
Detective Senior Sergeant Morris says some parents opt to take action, whilst others choose not to when they realise the extent of the legal ramifications for all involved.
"But if it's in the greater public interest, if things are serious, I'll put an investigation forward,'' he says."
"That public interest issue will come first - there's a reason why as a society we have to take action.'
Manager of headspace Bendigo Jenny Singe works with young people affected by sexting and the psychological trauma that goes with that.
"They don't realise that once it's out there, it's out there,'' she says.
"They are socially excluded, bullied, harassed because they're considered 'loose' and they're anxious and don't want to go back to school.
"It is more of an issue in junior schools, vulnerable 12 to 16 year olds that are wanting to fit in.
"Their boyfriend, someone they absolutely adore, will ask them to send a picture.
"She is thinking 'he says he loves me, he won't show anyone' - but then they do, and it's really awful.
"Then they have fights on social media about it and the kids get really distressed.
"We advise them not to use social media as a space to vent anger or distress, because it's not safe.''
Ms Singe says it's mostly teenage girls who are vulnerable, because they want to be accepted, have a boyfriend or be part of the 'in' group.
"We are seeing this issue more frequently.
"It takes a few sessions for the kids to say 'this is why I'm really here' - they've realised they have done something and they can't take it back.
"It's a pretty horrible space for that person.
"It's something parents as well as schools need to educate the kids about.
"I feel for the kids - technology is being thrown at them, but they don't understand.''
That's the message Bendigo Senior Secondary College has also taken from recent years.
Assistant principal student engagement and well-being Linda Lyons says technology and the legal ramifications for students engaging in unlawful behaviour have been part of the wider conversation at the school for some time now.
"We know this is happening in all schools and the incidence is much lower than it could be,'' she says.
The school accepts young people will be involved with social media and in line with the I Keep Safe training, skilled teachers up on recognising what is distasteful or illegal or unlawful behaviour.
A Bendigo get safe policy was developed and teachers can now identify between behaviour that breaks school rules and that which is breaking the law.
Students are taught two key messages; not to do things that break the rules and to ensure their digital footprint leaves them in a good light.
"We want them a positive digital footprint, not something you would be ashamed for your grandparents to see,'' Ms Lyons says.
A recent education session saw students role play a scenario based on sexting, including the consequences for those engaging in written form, rather than just imagery
"That was the biggest eye opener for our students,'' she says.
"That had a really big impact.
"How many were sitting there that were doing that and had not considered they were breaking the law?"
But as Ms Singe from headspace says, the important thing for young people who might have engaged in such behaviour is to remember that you can't change the past.
"Work towards the future.
"We all slip up, but learn from it and don't do it again.
"But it is tragic and scary and parents need to set some really clear guidelines about technology.''
Read more about sexting here.