Teen Sexting: Criminal or Just Stupid?

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Sometimes teenagers make poor decisions and do dumb things. In today’s technological world, one of those stupid things is taking naked pictures of yourself with your cellphone and sending them to your boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s irresponsible and immature, and certainly shows a lack of understanding that screenshots are forever, but it shouldn’t be criminal.

In Pennsylvania, the ACLU is considering filing a suit over two Greensburg Salem Middle School students who were charged last fall for sexting crimes. Under the state’s strict law, police charged a 13-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy with “transmission of sexually explicit images by minors.”

So there was this teenage girl that sent a photo of herself topless to the boy at his request. The boy, who should get a medal for this next part, deleted the photo instead of posting it on the Internet or passing it around to his friends. But then the girl’s mom found the image on her phone, and contacted the authorities.

Police spoke to school officials and seized the boy’s phone, even though the picture was sent on the weekend and had no involvement with the school. Both children were charged with what essentially amounts to a form of child pornography.

The kids were stupid and reckless, and things could have gone down a lot worse than they did. Studies have shown that teens that sext are more likely to be depressed or suicidal, and I can only imagine the humiliation that girl would have experienced had the boy made the photo public. That doesn’t mean they should be charged with a crime.

Where are these children’s parents? This seems like a private family matter, and a good opportunity to open the lines of communication between yourselves, your children, their friends, and their friends’ parents. The kids don’t need to be charged with anything -- they need to be smacked upside the head and told to stop making stupid decisions. They need supervision, and they probably don’t need those cellphones, so cut the line.

This is not a case of an older predator preying on a young victim, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. They are kids, and they need direction and discipline and guidance, not a criminal record. It’s easy to get lost in the anonymity of new technologies like texting, and kids need to be taught that even though they feel a step removed from a sense of accountability, there are consequences for their actions.

Kids will be kids, but parents need to be parents.

Do you think it’s appropriate to charge sexting teens with crimes?


Image via Summer Skyes 11/Flickr

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