When we elect e-n00bs: Sexting makes sexsational headlines

Sexting.  It sounds slightly perverse.  And it’s becoming the new buzzword for the righteous politicians who feel that it is their job to try to protect us from ourselves. Yes, let’s make sending pictures of our naked bodies via text message a crime, especially if we’re young.

State Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, and state Sen. Bob Schuler, R-Sycamore Twp., announced the legislation…. that would make teenagers sending sexually provocative or nude pictures of themselves or others through a cell phone a first degree misdemeanor. The legislation would apply only to teens younger than 18, separate from similar adult offenses which carry felonious charges.

via ‘Sexting’ legislation proposed to protect teens.

Do we really want to stigmatize teens with what, although it isn’t called this outright,  will almost certainly be looked at as a type of “sex crime”?  In my day, kids used Polaroid cameras to do the same thing- it’s just the format that has changed.  Lets tie up our courts, cost our citizens money, and put a black mark on the records of youth for what is more commonly known as a youthful indiscretion.

I think it’s clear that what adults do regarding messaging between themselves should be of very little interest to the government, especially if the harm is only to their credibility.  Regarding teens, do we charge young smokers with a crime?  Should we arrest them on sight?  If a health warning is good enough for cigarettes, maybe all cell phones should just have a government required warning:  Sending naked pictures via cellphone could cause you great embarrassment for the rest of your life, don’t do it.  Making “sexting” a crime is clearly a case of the government inserting itself where it doesn’t belong.

However, there has also been discussion of teachers being too available via text messaging, and the possibility of these tools too easily leading to unethical and immoral relationships with minors.  There are strict rules about relationships between students and teachers already in place to prevent authority figures from taking advantage of their position with juveniles, and avoiding this potential problem should be a matter of policy, not law.  Teachers should only have contact with students through school regulated e-channels.  No personal e-mail accounts, no text messaging to private cell phones, should be allowed in normal channels.  I say normal channels, because there are instances like school trips- where emergency contacts should be available.  However, State guidelines should be enough to manage these areas, with enforcement left to school districts.

The recent focus on sexting is just one more instance of sensationalism in “journalism”, thinking that the digital version of playing truth-or-dare (you show me yours if I show you mine) is newsworthy.  It’s not.  Do we really want government regulating our e-mail too?  Texting is just a shorter, more portable version of e-mail.

With serious problems facing our economy, a judicial system that is already overloaded, and many more important issues to address,  the sexting “problem” is really just an indication of the level of knee-jerk reactionist stupidity that our elected leaders have fallen to.

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9 Responses

  1. Brian April 16, 2009 / 8:09 am
    As it currently stands, if a 16-year old sends a nude pic of themselves to another 16-year old, it is technically Kiddie Porn and a Felony with Sex Offender status for life, etc.   The new law to make it a misdemeanor is actually a step in the right direction, lessening the penalty for this silly (but not really felonious) behavior.

  2. Bill April 16, 2009 / 10:46 am
      A step in the right direction would be eliminating these ill-construed,  prudent laws. What right do we have, as adults, to apply felony charges to something we have all seen or experienced. Silly behavior is not felonious behavior, nor is it misdeameanor behavior. It is an integral part of growing up and becoming an responsible adult. Many people make mistakes in judgement, very few don’t.
      To continue on this path, of allowing government to regulate our families is surely a path of self destruction. We brand our teenagers for life. Our government “regulators” are nothing less than a group of prudent  hippocrites.  We are no longer a democracy, but more accurately, a hippocracy. Intolerance has created a great deal of anger in our younger folks….and even in our older folks. Since when has raising a family become a political issue?
     If we want to teach our young people  intolerance and prudence, then we will reap the benefits…..and we must live as hippocrites.
    Our fondest memories or our parents usually involve kindness and understanding.
    (atleast mine were…..)
    When we remove kindness and understanding, and replace it with archaic prudence, arent we moving backwards, instead of forwards?
    .
  3. Drexel Dave Sparks April 16, 2009 / 11:47 am
    So, if my 37-year-old girlfriend sends me any hot pictures from her cell-phone, I am now wanted by the po-po?
  4. David Esrati April 16, 2009 / 2:17 pm

    I have to do a little more research on this. We also get into defining what is porn, what is child porn- and what warrants “sexual offender” status.
    I still have a problem with the idea that if a 14 year old takes a picture of themselves nude- it’s child porn and can be a criminal act. This will have to be revisited.
    I’m also wondering when consenting adults doing the picture swap became a crime?

  5. Mike April 16, 2009 / 9:38 pm
    Consenting adults swapping pictures of adults is not a crime.  Anyone swapping pictures of anyone under 18 is a crime.  As Brian stated, the change in the law is meant to lessen the penalty for those under 18 doing the swapping because as David pointed out, that is most often youthful indiscretion.  The key though is “most often”. 
  6. Brian April 16, 2009 / 9:54 pm
    I’m not saying it should be a misdemeanor or crime at all, but I think a misdemeanor is a lot better than a felony (as currently legislated, or so I thought).   It should probably just be “a bad idea”  not a crime.

  7. Phil Collins April 16, 2009 / 10:25 pm
    So could I be charged with child pornography for sending a pic of my unswathed, newly born nephew to a friend?  At what age does a nude human become innapproriate?
  8. Mike April 17, 2009 / 6:17 am
    “anyone under 18″ is the gist of it.  There are always exceptions: parents, medical, etc.

    Here is the <a href=”http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2907.323”>ORC section</a>.

  9. Brenda Cress December 8, 2009 / 4:14 pm
    I know I’m late to this discussion; but better to jump in somewhere than not at all.
    To PHIL COLLINS:
    Yes sir; if you sent a “pic of my unswathed, newly born nephew to a friend” and that image depicts the newborns “sexual region” then YES; you have just committed a “Sex Offense”. If your friend stores that image on their computer (say in an album) your FRIEND has now committed a “Sex Offense”.
    Heaven forbid the pics are printed out .. you both now have taken part in disseminating pornography involving children. WELCOME to the world of tier III “Sex Offender” status.
    Sickening isn’t it? An absolutely innocent gesture misconstrued as something heinous.
    I’ll keep repeating this until some MAJOR changes are made:
    “We need to back-up and apply common sense, use critical thinking, apply logic … BEFORE charges are ever sought”.
    Having said that; I would bet 90% off all parents have pics of their own children in the tub. I guess that makes all of them “Sex Offenders” too, in one way or another.
     

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