It should be good news. A proposed Texas law could finally address the problem of teenagers labeled sexual predators for being dumb kids. Sexting teens will now only be charged with a misdemeanor for a first offense. But that's where the good news ends.
Because Texas now wants to punish parents of teens caught sexting. The parents will have to go through an education program on the evils of taking naughty pictures of yourself and shooting them off to your bestie.
OK, let's get this straight, Texas. You think making the parents go through a course on this is going to put an end to it?
Next we'll send parents of kids who get into a fight on the football field to anger management classes. And that teenager who wrecks his car because he drives like a bonehead? Let's send his Dad to driving school.
Yes, parents need to keep track of their kids. Yes, parents need to teach their kids to be responsible, law-abiding citizens. But we've become a nation where everything a kid does wrong is blamed on his or her parents. Sometimes we have to accept kids will be kids -- and that means kids will make mistakes.
That would seem to be the driving reason behind the whole revamp of the sexting law to begin with, to reflect that kids who sext are being stupid but not necessarily trying to spread child porn or hurt someone. They're generally just experimenting sexually, like most kids do.
Because for every stupid parent out there are a whole hand full who simply can't control everything their kids do every second of the day. We provide guidance, but we also have to let our kids make a certain amount of mistakes on their own in order to learn. And while sexting is a serious issue, it's not a plague sweeping American high schools. Only 4 percent of teens (ages 12 to 17) say they've sent a sexually explicit photo or video via text message. It's pretty clear most American parents know it's wrong, and most American kids do too.
Treating this like a parental issue is naive at best. Getting caught sexting, while incredibly stupid, is one of those mistakes that's a kid's own. By its very nature, sexting is something done by teens far away from their parents' eyes, with a niggling fear in the back of the mind that "Oh, my Mom and Dad probably wouldn't approve of this."
So make up your mind, Texas. Are you reducing the severity of the crime because it's "kids being kids" or is this a problem with poor parenting?
Image via KB35/Flickr