Sexting 2High school and middle school students across the country are increasingly getting themselves in trouble due to the Tech Explosion. With a technology that simply didn’t exist a few years ago, students are now running afoul of the law. Increasingly, students are engaging in behavior that isn’t just wrong in the eyes of their parents, it’s often wrong in the eyes of the law.

Problems are arising where kids are sending explicit photos and video clips to each other. Some kids do this as a way to impress their boyfriends or girlfriends. In some cases, kids are sending these texts as a joke, with totally fake accounts and totally fake pictures. Cases are arising where charges fall into the category of felonies.

Sexting 1Felony charges are the real deal. Anyone who knows the legal system will tell you that a felony is serious business. A felony can lead to a seriously punishing sentence, a permanent record, trouble getting a job, housing, credit and can even lead to an inability to vote. This rescinding of voting rights, or suffrage, is referred to as “felony disenfranchisement”.

Technology has changed so rapidly, due to the Tech Explosion, that the adolescent practices of young kids no longer jives with the laws created by their own adult parents and representatives. Take, for example, a hypothetical case where a 17-year old boy has a 15 or 16-year old girlfriend. Let’s say the young girl decides to impress him by doing something stupid, as kids always do, by texting him some pictures of herself. If her parents find out, they will be seriously pissed off. But if the cops find out, the boyfriend can be looking at serious charges of possessing child pornography! Of course, this doesn’t really make sense, but the fact is, it’s the law.

Sexting 3Just last month in Virginia, a 17-year old boy was arrested for sending a sexually explicit photo to his 15-year old girlfriend. So, what once would have been dealt with by the angry father of the young girl is now leading to arrests, court dates, lawyers and possibly a sentence and a criminal record. Years ago, if teenagers got into some inappropriate behavior, there wasn’t any evidence of it. Today, there’s a permanent online, traceable record of photos and videos sent back and forth. It’s the Tech Explosion colliding with the foolish adolescent behavior of kids.

In a recent survey done by Cosmogirl of 1,280 teenage girls and young adults, 20% of 13- to 20-year-olds and 33% of those aged 20 to 26 said they had sent nude or semi-nude images electronically. We can all debate and try to analyze why this this type of behavior is even desirable in the first place. The fact is, however, that laws have not kept up with the Tech Explosion.

Recently in the Chicago area, several kids were charged with felony counts due to some inappropriate texts. Two young boys in middle school were charged with felony counts of possessing child pornography. The two 14-year old boys, students at Barrington Middle School in Barrington, Illinois, sent photos and videos of several other kids in various stages of undress. The Instagram accounts quickly went viral and created a firestorm in their community. Apparently the boys’ phones were sent to an FBI digital forensics lab for analysis. Stupid, dumb, foolish for sure, but does it qualify as a felony charge against kids of the same age? That’s a huge issue now facing communities all across America, all due to the Tech Explosion.

Can you imagine what the parents of these kids are going through right now? They’ve got to bring their kids to court, hire lawyers to defend them, miss out on days of work, all because of some foolish behavior. There’s no question that distributing pictures of someone else is a serious issue. The question is, is this really a crime that warrants felony charges? I would guess that a judge would lessen the charges to a misdemeanor offense, but that remains to be seen. There will likely be many more of these incidents in the coming months and years. That’s just the nature of things today.

Please tell us how you feel about this issue. Should kids be charged with adult-like felony charges for sending inappropriate photos to one another?

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