Monday, April 13, 2009

The Issue of "Sexting"

If you are new to the word "sexting" it is the act of sending explicit texts or pictures through a cell phone. It's very popular among teens and unfortunately even younger minors. As it stands, teens across the country have wound up on sex offender registries because of scenarios like this: 17-year-old dates a 16-year-old... the girl sends her boyfriend an explicit picture of herself. They get in a fight and out of immaturity, he sends it to her entire family. Police get involved... and he is charged with distributing child pornography. He winds up registering as a sex offender and his neighbors get email alerts that they are living next to a child predator. There are a million issues here. First let's start with the end result...
Should a 17-year-old be on a sex offender registry for a picture his girlfriend sent him? Probably not. I remember what it was like to be 16 and I am pretty sure that most girls sending out picture of themselves know exactly what they are doing and like the attention. Is it immature? Absolutely. Should he have sent it on to her family? Absolutely not. But let's take a step back for a minute. There is a bigger issue when minors are sending pornographic pictures and texts to each other. As if there isn't enough pressure on teenagers, girls now have to compete with each other via cell phone??? This is an issue parents need to address and monitor. I know she's not paying her own cell phone bill. That means PARENTS: You have some control. PLEASE USE IT! And please talk to your kids about sexting and the repercussions later in life. Not only could their boyfriend get mad or jealous and send it to anyone in the world... but those pictures could pop up one day when your teen tries to get a job, run for office, or any other time they come across someone in life who wants to humiliate them.
This is a tough issue for me because although I think there should be consequences for forwarding a naked picture of someone... I also don't think boys like the example above should have that shadow cast over them when the girl never should have sent the picture in the first place. There has to be another way.
Lawmakers in Vermont are currently trying to legalize teen "sexting" so that teens in this situation won't have the stigma of being a sex offender. However, when we make it legal... it makes it okay for minors to send either other sexual images. We also can't say that's okay. I don't know what the solution is, but I will say... it starts at home. Parents take heed.
If anyone else has any brilliant suggestions, feel free to post!


Michael said...

Our laws were written with the assumption somebody in the legal process had some ability to discern motive and intent. Parents taking naked pictures of their own children playing in a bathtub should not be considered child pornographers. Neither should anyone in your scenario be considered as a pornographer under the intent of the law ... anymore than a nail clipper is a weapon or sharing a bottle of aspirin is distributing drugs. Alas, it seems too many people have lost the ability to make common sense judgements and we have all this "Zero Tolerance" insanity.

Meghan said...

Michael... very good point. I think it's sad that people can't do anything anymore because common sense seems to have flown out the window. Thanks for commenting!