Labeling teens ‘child pornographers’

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?

4 thoughts on “Labeling teens ‘child pornographers’

  1. I agree with you Matt. This problem has become very huge. I truly think it goes back to the parents. I don't think parents are truly staying connected with their kids and know what is going on in their lives. And peer pressure is horrible. I know it was when I was in school and I am sure it is even worse now. But you really have to raise your kid from when they are very little to have morals and to understand the difference between right and wrong. They have to learn to make these decisions for themselves too on what is right and wrong and I think a lot of them don't see it as wrong which is very sad. But to have them charged as sex offenders I think is crazy. That is quite extreme like you said. Charge them with a sexual offense or something but not where it will affect the rest of their lives in every aspect. Even in their future employment opportunities. Can you just imagine???? Too many people are leaving God out of their lives and it is showing. America only calls on God in desperate times and when they need something. Other than that, they want to be in control and God just doesn't work that way.

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  2. Quick question, since I don't know, but with most crimes committed as a teen, it either "falls off" or the record is sealed once the juvenile reaches adulthood. Is it not the same for sexual offenses? If these charges don't go on permanent record -requiring them to register, etc- then I think this is a good deterrent. On the other hand, if it Is permanent, well…maybe they'll think twice before selling themselves out.

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  3. I have personal insight into this issue. We have a young man from our congregation currently serving federal time and then state time for such charges. And when he gets released 5.5 years from now, he will be on the list. His mom is working with VA lawmakers and federal lawmakers to change this law about being on the list. That said, this is very real. When he is released he will be on the list and a part of our congregation.

    While this trend is new, the laws on the books are not. Just as sexting is the "hot" media word right now, I do believe the law will be used quite frequently over the next year to quell this bad trend/idea. That will leave a lot of unsuspecting young adults and teens on the list and as a church we will have some decisions to make.

    By the way, when this young man gets released he will not be our first convicted sex offender our congregation has allowed into our church family. We have already had to make these decisions. Thankfully, we haven't been burned yet but greatly blessed.

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  4. Brenda, that's intense. I'm glad you guys are still keeping him a part of the church – too many out there would toss him out. But it's stories like this that make me cringe over how the laws are right now; they were written for a time when people could never have imagined how kids are using technology today – the system needs to be updated!

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