We had mirrors on our shoes. This was back when girls still wore skirts to school. Some genius would steal his mom’s compact and tie it to his shoes and try to get a peek at the female goods before school, at lunch, or between classes.
We had 1-900 numbers that we would convince some unsuspecting schmuck to call because his parents were at work and he had no idea it cost. We’d all huddle around the earpiece and listen as the lady on the other end talked dirty to us.
We sneaked into the girl’s locker room and hid, hoping to get a view of female undress. Usually we were too chicken to hide in the locker room when there was an actual chance that a girl would walk in, but there were always rumors of that one guy who was brave enough to stay and received his reward.
We were kids doing what kids do. We explored our burgeoning sexuality, we learned right from wrong, and when we were caught we were embarrassed, chastised, and maybe even suspended from school for a day or two.
We turned out OK.
We’re not depraved. We’re not sick. And certainly no one would label us as sex offenders.
Fast forward 25 years to today. 2009. The technology has changed but kids have not. They are the same as they have been for thousands of years. Today, though, kids have technology we never had; they have the Internet and cell phones. And therein lies the problem.
Our ability to capture and record every moment of our lives has increased dramatically. No longer do kids need to buy Playboy; they can log onto a website and watch sex acts as they happen via web cams. In fact, sometimes one, or both, of the participants in a web-cam sex session are unaware that they are being filmed.
So what happens if one kid snaps a nekkid picture of his girlfriend on his cell phone without her knowing and shows it to some friends?
Is it poor taste? Sure.
Is it child pornography? Yes.
At least that’s what so many wants us to think. In fact, there are numerous cases in courts right now across the country where this very issue is being weighed. Children barely old enough to stay up and watch the late show, filled with hormones and doing what kids do, are finding themselves faced with lifetime “Sex Offender” labels attached to their public record.
The boy who snaps a naked cell phone picture of his girlfriend who is also underage is certainly a cad and undeserving of his girlfriend. He’s also being charged with viewing and disseminating child pornography.
And I have an issue with that.
They say ignorance of the law is no excuse, and by and large it seems to make sense. Until you see how many laws there are and until you realize that nearly any law can be twisted and subverted to apply to cases against which it was never intended. And that’s what’s happening here, people.
Child pornography laws are intended to protect children from malicious adults who would take advantage of them. They are not intended to be applied in child-on-child situations. In fact, it goes even further than that.
If I, for instance, were to take a picture of Carey in the shower without her knowing and share it with friends I would not go to jail for it. That’s not pornography; that’s just poor taste. Take two 17-year-old kids in the same situation and suddenly it’s pornography. This is why the new buzzword, “sexting” is so, well, charged.
Sexting is the term used to describe the sending of sexual content from cell phone to cell phone using MMS messaging. I can sext; you can sext. There’s nothing illegal about it. The illegality of it comes in when the content being sexted is of an underage person.
So age of the sender is not accounted for when sexting becomes an issue. Only the age of the person being “sexted.” On the outside it makes sense – sending sexually explicit content of children is child pornography. There are laws to protect children from exploitation like this.
I think we all agree that children need to be protected from sexual exploitation and that adults who sexually exploit children should be treated as the criminals that they are. But I do not think that the laws apply to children sexting other children in their age group.
Some modicum of common sense needs to be applied here. We, as a nation, continually try to kill cockroaches with bazookas. If we throw the book at a few, the rest will stop. If we come down like a ton of bricks and forever ruin the life of one child, it will make others think twice before they do it.
But that’s not true. It’s not right. It’s not fair. Kids are kids, people. Kids need to be firmly and gently guided to appropriate sexual behavior and respect for the other sex. Labeling a 16-year-old as a sex offender for having a picture of his girlfriend is not appropriate. Period. It’s just not.
It’s stupid and asinine. How can kids be expected to know, and follow, every law pertaining to appropriate social behavior when the laws are continually being changed or interpreted to mean different things? Adults cant keep up – that’s why we need lawyers, unfortunately. How can we honestly be OK labeling a child as a sex offender for life in this situation? For having a naked picture of his girlfriend?
The punishment does not fit the crime, people. Instead of being offended that kids use today’s technology to explore their sexuality (just like you did at their age) we should be offended at the judges who allow these lawsuits to continue. These children need to be punished for such gross indiscretions – but not labeled for life. These kids can’t get jobs, get scholarships, go to colleges – all because they had a naked picture of a girl on their cell phone. Or because they sent it to some buddies.
How does that rehabilitate behavior? How is that anything other than punitive to the point of ridiculousness? How does that teach a child right from wrong?
Zero-tolerance is very rarely appropriate, people.
Instead, why aren’t the lawsuits against the companies that facilitate the exchange of this data? I disagree with that as well – but I have yet to see a cell company get sued for being the willing vehicle for the dissemination of pornographic material.
Hell, we have peer-to-peer companies getting sued for making it easy to download illegal music – why isn’t someone making the cell companies take a stake in this issue? With today’s technology it is easy to pattern recognize a boob, penis, or vagina in a picture and stop it from transmitting. I don’t agree with that censorship – but why are we killing the future of these kids without ever once looking for alternative ways to protect our children?
Children should not be labeled as sex offenders for sexting. It does no good, harms their future, and teaches no valid moral lesson. We, as a society, need to take less interest in punitive measures and more interest in rehabilitative measures and teaching acceptable social conduct to our children.