Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spokane media makes a big deal about 'sexting'

Earlier this week KXLY 5, one of the local TV stations in Spokane, ran a story about "sexting", a term that refers to underaged teenagers taking nude pictures of themselves and using multimedia messaging to exchange the photos on their mobile phones. KXLY describes sexting this way: is the latest fad which could put your child at risk or possibly behind bars, as nude photos of anyone under the age of 18 are technically considered to be child pornography.
Sexting isn't new, and although I have seen no instances of it, it is certainly happening. Ironically, the behavior itself is not as troubling as how American society has responded to it so far.

For example, prosecutors using child pornography laws to prosecute those who have exchanged pictures of their genitalia. That's not going to stop sexting, and it's a misuse of the laws against child pornography.

Teenagers have been charged for child pornography, a felony, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois, just to name a few places, for exchanging explicit images. In one absurd case, a New Jersey teen is being charged with child pornography because she "exploited" herself. If convicted, those teenagers would have to register as sex offender for engaging in victimless behavior.

Sexting is usually done between consenting teenagers, and no one is harmed by it. The assertion that it could be used for harmful purposes is untrue, for if used for malicious means or the subject is not consenting there are other laws to deal with the problem. Prosecuting teenagers for exploring their sexuality is a waste of time and money.

Twenty percent of teenagers surveyed have admitted to engaging in sexting. Teenagers who want to exchange explicit images with each other are going to keep on doing so. Prosecutors may think exacting punishment will serve as a deterrent, but the reality is nothing will change, because teenagers will instead find another medium to exert the same behavior.

This truth seems lost on local authorities.
[Spokane County Sheriff Detective] Skogen says he’d like to see the offense reduced from a felony and would also want prosecutors to be able to consider the age difference between victim and offender. This would still allow child pornography offenders to be prosecuted while allowing less harsh penalties for children who are sexting.
They just don't get it, do they?

Law enforcement should be focused on stopping people from harming each other, instead of cracking down on youth for expressing their sexuality.

Dragging minors through the court system for taking an explicit pictures of themselves and sending those images to friends benefits no one.

The best thing administrators, police, and concerned citizens can do to help young people make responsible decisions is to support comprehensive, medically accurate sex education in our schools, and encourage parents to talk to their kids about these issues on a regular basis.


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