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Has anyone besides me never heard of “sexting”? According to Urban Dictionary, “sexting” (a.k.a. sex texting) is “the act of text messaging someone in the hopes of having a sexual encounter with them later; initially casual, transitioning into highly suggestive and even sexually explicit.” It can include just words or, in many cases, sexually charged photos of people. This disturbing new trend is happening with teens as young as the seventh grade, according to some sources. And apparently you can catch some serious jail time by doing it. It is a felony for anyone under eighteen to send or receive naked pictures on their cellular phones because it’s considered child pornography.
The usual story goes something like this: two teens are in a relationship and they can’t go 20 minutes without seeing each other or their hormones start racing like crazy. In order to calm themselves, one sends the other a naughty picture via cell phone, juicy subtitle included. The other reciprocates. Later, shockingly and without warning, the couple breaks up. One is so upset that he or she distributes the photo to classmates to get revenge. The other tells the teacher, the phones are confiscated, and both wind up with felony child pornography, obscenity, or distributing charges.
This actually happens. A teen in Allen County, Indiana was recently charged with obscenity after sending a picture of himself sans clothes to some girls in his class. Seven teens in Pennsylvania got hit with child pornography charges for doing the same thing.
The child pornography charges are engendering a huge debate among teens, teachers, prosecutors, and parents. Some say that child pornography and similar charges should be reserved for real sex offenders. Others argue that such hefty punishments should be leveled against the teens because there needs to be a sufficient deterrent against such potentially damaging behavior.
I think what two teens send between themselves on a cell phone is their business. There’s not a lot of harm done at that point. (If they’re sending those kind of pictures, it’s pretty safe to assume what they’re doing when they’re together.) But I think it should be a crime to redistribute those photos. Maybe not a felony– the “victimized” teens chose to snap pictures of themselves and send them in the first place, after all– but a misdemeanor may be appropriate. Or maybe we can just not give seventh graders cell phones to begin with.
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