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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