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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dirti... dirtiekittie

i will never understand parents whose first reaction is to call the police. what, they didn't sit down with their daughter and have a discussion about self-respect? they couldn't have contacted the boy's parents and all had a sit down to discuss this together as their parents? and NOT as a national media case? 

that's what's wrong with this country now. we're so quick to call the cops, call the ACLU, call the Parents' TV Council, call ANYbody except the actual parents to be responsible. and if you can't even control your 13 and 14 year old children, what's going to happen with them in just a couple of years at 16 or 17? this has all gotten so out of hand, when really what's needed is some serious discipline and action by the parents - not a lawsuit by the ACLU. 

nonmember avatar The wife

I agree w/ dirtiekittie. This girl's mom is doing more damage to her daughter than the boy involved.

How about we treat sexting like sex: use the 4year rule, if the involved parties ALL claim it was consensual, then it isn't criminal unless the non-minor is at least 4 years older than the minor. (Obviously, this varies by state). The mother should not have involved the school. But then, i don't think a 13 year old should have a cell phone without knowing it will be handed to her parents and examined by them each night.

Pinkmani Pinkmani

What's the point in sexting when porn is free?

I think the only way to get them to stop is to either charge them or have them be embarrassed when the whole school sees their "coochie crack". (Thank you, Kenya Moore)

nonmember avatar peopleareidiots

Make it a misdemeanor, give them some time in Juvy, and let them learn a lesson from it. Being this young, it will not follow them forever, records are sealed when they are 18. But they need to learn that there are serious consequences for these types of actions. And people who give their kids cell phones are idiots too and should be charged also if they own the phone that their kids do this crap on.

Rootbear Rootbear

I don't think its necessairily appropriate, but if I ever caught my kid 'sexting' on a phone that I am more than likely footing the bill for, they'd lose that phone so fast it would make their head spin.

RiotP... RiotPixie

And this is why my kids will not have cell phones with cameras on them. Too many kids nowadays take that privilege for granted. And abuse the hell out of their parents' trust. We, ass parents, can't be with our children 24-7, we don't knew what they're doing behind our backs. I would much rather my kids be mass at me for giving them lame cell phones than having to worry about sexting and the like. W have enough to worry about every day before adding more junk to that list. Just my opinion. But hey, my kids are 6, 2 and 1. I have a while before I have to worry about that. Give my son a video game, and he is content for hours.

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