It’s slightly worrisome that the new teen trend involves sending naked pictures of yourself to all your friends, but it’s even more unsettling that this lapse in judgement could be criminally prosecuted as a sex crime. Lets face it, teenagers have never been known for their brilliant decision making skills. Lack of impulse control is a rite of passage, and current technology has just thrust old behaviors into a new arena.
I don’t condone ‘sexting.’ Like many reckless teen behaviors, it’s a dumb decision that could have unforeseen consequences. That being said, prosecuting teens criminally as sex offenders does absolutely nothing for anybody. If adults want to curb this behavior there are various ways of doing so without impeding a teens life in dire ways. Being convicted of a sex crime follows you everywhere. There are rules about where you can live, work and who you can spend time with. Furthermore, why waste the courts time to fix a problem that can be handled in so many other more appropriate and effective ways.
Many may argue that distributing nude pictures is the definition of child pornography, but that misses the point. These kids aren’t trying to market or sell these photos, they are simply showing off and acting out. Yes, technically I suppose this fits the definition of child pornography, but any logical person looking at the majority of these cases will deduce that trafficking pornography was not the intent of these ‘sexts.’
If the courts are really looking for a way to prosecute teens for online and digital transgressions, perhaps a better place to start would be online bullying. This is an area that we could benefit from looking at as a society. Research has shown that many more teens are affected by vicious online bullying than harmless nude text messages. Sure, circulating naked pictures is never a positive (unless of course you’re Hugh Heffner or Larry Flynt) but there are some cases where the punishment (being declared a sex offender) just doesn’t fit the crime (teenage stupidity).