It’s happening more and more; in a desperate attempt to get teens to stop posting naked pictures of themselves online and to stop the spread of ‘sexting’ – sending naked pictures of themselves via cellphone, officials are arresting kids on child pornography charges. Here’s the latest example, a fourteen year old girl arrested for posting pictures of herself on myspace for her boyfriend. Recently a half a dozen kids were arrested and charged the same way in Pennsylvania for sending and receiving photos of each other on their cell phones. The list is growing of kids being charged this way …
And I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it is a very, very disturbing trend. Kids just don’t seem to get the seriousness of putting these pictures out there. Once they’re online or on other people’s cell phones, they’ve lost control and those pictures will come back to haunt them. I think there do need to be serious enough consequences to scare kids away from doing it.
On the other hand, charging them with something that will require them to be labeled the rest of their lives as sex offenders, forced to register wherever they move, listed online in sex offender registries, etc., seems overly drastic to me. The reality is, in many places even for middle schoolers they’re not even considered going out until your boyfriend/girlfriend has a naked picture of them on their cell phone. Youth culture has gone desperately off track in this area and we’re just now starting to catch up. Part of the problem is that we just don’t have the laws in place for this particular strain of sex offense.
We need scary consequences, serious enough to convey just how dangerous this is, but without permanently labeling a kid a sex offender. I’m not quite sure what that looks like, I just know that in my opinion as a youth worker, it doesn’t look like what we’re currently doing.
What do you all think?