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Paradoxically, the girls in the Pennsylvania case were charged with "manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography" while the boys were merely charged with possession.If the girls are the real victims, why are we treating them more harshly than the boys?Say you're a middle-school principal who confiscated a cell phone from a 14-year-old boy, only to discover it contains a nude photo of his 13-year-old girlfriend.Do you (a) call the boy's parents in despair; (b) call the girl's parents in despair; or (c) call the police? Which could result in criminal charges for both of your students, and their eventual designation as sex offenders.Child-pornography laws intended to protect children should not be used to prosecute and then label children as sex offenders.We seem to forget that kids can be as tech-savvy as Bill Gates but as gullible as Bambi.Even in the age of the Internet, young people fail to appreciate that naked pictures want to roam free.The real problem with criminalizing teen sexting as a form of child pornography is that the great majority of these kids are not predators. And while some of the reaction to sexting reflects legitimate concerns about children as sex objects, some perpetuates legal stereotypes and fallacies.
For youth to thrive in schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported.
A recent New York Times article quotes the Family Violence Prevention Fund, a nonprofit domestic-violence-awareness group, saying that the sending of nude pictures, even if done voluntarily, constitutes "digital dating violence." But do we truly believe that one in five teens is participating in an act of violence?
Experts insist the sexting trend hurts teen girls more than boys, fretting that they feel "pressured" to take and send naked photos.
A 15-year-old girl in Ohio and a 14-year-old girl in Michigan were charged with felonies for sending nude images of themselves to classmates.
Some of these teens have pleaded guilty to lesser charges. If convicted, these young people may have to register as sex offenders, in some cases for a decade or two.