HEADLINES Published May24, 2019 By Ivan Seranno

Why We Should Stop Prosecuting Child Sexters As Offenders

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The New York Times notes that sexting is a natural phenomenon based on the way our lives have become dominated by digital applications on mobiles. At current, reports Medical Xpress, teens that consensually sext can be prosecuted as child pornographers, a legal precedent that researchers are calling unfair. In a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers mention that over 40 reviews establish the prevalence of sexting in teens and makes mention that a delineation must occur between consensual teenage sexting, non-consensual sexting, and adult-child sexting for proper policy to be drafted. The prevalence of digital devices in our society has changed how children develop. Never before in human society have we had access to information on such a large scale. However, with this newfound

Sexting is a Social Norm among Teens

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that the police in Châteauguay, Montreal undertook a public awareness campaign targeted at teens 12 to 17 informing them that even consensually sent images could be considered child pornography. While the dedication is admirable, it's likely that this sort of focus on the illegality of the situation could lead to negative consequences for both sender and recipient. There are comparisons to be made with abstinence drives in the United States, and as Science Daily notes, these programs rarely ever lead to abstinence among the participants. Sex is something that teenagers are driven to because of their hormones. It's a natural, biological stimulus that occurs at puberty. Surprisingly enough, The CDC notes that teen sexual activity has been steadily on the decline over the last decade.

Changing the Status Quo

Because of the prevalence of sexting in society, it might be more prudent to offer guidance regarding sexting than making it an offense. Seattle Met mentions that there was a push in February 2018 to have a bill that decriminalized teen sexting. This is quite a progressive move and one that follows findings by the study in the journal Pediatrics. Net Nanny states that there aren't any specific laws in many states to deal with sexting, but that individual states have their own set of legislation that may apply. The concern with decriminalization of the sexting laws is that it creates a precedent which may be abused by pedophiles. As such, most proponents to changing the statutes cite the fact that adult-to-teen sexting should still be classified as child pornography and duly prosecuted.

Dealing with a Biological Imperative

Psychology Today mentions that sexting is a behavior that is more prevalent in unattached individuals than it is in people who are already within a relationship. Because of the need to have sex that teenagers' hormones create and the attachment that such a situation creates, it can be proposed that, from a sexual health point of view, this is a better way to deal with repressed teen sexual energy than actually engaging in sex. In such a case, a sexually frustrated teenager has the added pressure of possibly ending up with the tag of being a pedophile when trying to relieve his or her sexual tension through sexting. Trying to legislate a biological imperative is an exercise in futility. Instead, the responsibility for educating teenagers in sexting and the limits of the practice should fall to parents.

The Awkwardness of the Sexting Discussion

Most parents already feel awkward when they talk to their kids about sex, but from what we know, sexting has made it a necessary discussion a lot sooner than many parents bargain for. However, the debate is essential since it helps the teenager to understand their bodies, their motivations, and even how to deal with situations where peer pressure might enter the picture. For younger teenagers, the discussion might be extremely awkward for the parents, but older teens are more likely to approach the topic head-on and engage with parents on equal footing. Regardless of the situation, teens need to be aware that sexting an adult is still out of bounds.

Against the Spirit of the Law

While the law exists to protect children, the intention is to protect them from unscrupulous adults. Teens sexting with teens, while technically illegal, goes against the spirit intended by the law and such doesn't provide the protections that it initially expected. Instead, the statutes addressing sexting as child pornography open up children who are only guilty of following their biological imperatives to massive and irreparable damage to their reputations by being labeled as child sex offenders. If anything these laws should be examined and updated to fall in line with the current state of digital society.

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