General Question

gimmedat's avatar

Should minors who engage in "sexting" be referred to law enforcement?

Asked by gimmedat (3938points) May 15th, 2009 from iPhone

There are news stories describing the consequences of teens who knowingly send naked pics of themselves to others. Those teens have been charged with crimes relating to child pornography. Should those minors face criminal charges? What, if any, should be the role of law enforcement?

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52 Answers

DarkScribe's avatar

A survey here last week said that more thirty percent of “women” not teens, had used their phone take an intimate image of themselves for sending to a BF. It seems that it isn’t only teens. As for getting Police involved – that’s ludicrous. Kids have been playing Doctor since time began – this is just a new twist on it. In another decade you will considered abnormal or unusual if you don’t have naughty pics somewhere on the net. A few years ago, when scanning old negatives from long deceased relatives – I found naughty pics of my Great grandmother. Not naughty to the extent that is normal today, but definitely only for Granddad’s (who I presume took them) eyes. None of it is new in principle, just in application.

MrGV's avatar

I don’t think this is a big deal. If you’re stupid enough to take “naughty” pictures of yourself or let someone take it, you should know the consequences. Maybe exploiting these pictures will teach them a lesson

asmonet's avatar

“Maybe exploiting these pictures will teach them a lesson.”

Okay, boo to that.

I don’t think they should be prosecuted quite to the extent they have been, but if you distribute explicit images, video or even audio of a minor you are engaging in the distribution of child pornography. It’s that simple. It shouldn’t matter if you’re 17 or 18. Screw around as much as you want as a teenager with as many teenagers as you’d like, I don’t care – it’s your life. But distributing it is illegal and should be treated as such.

ragingloli's avatar

no, they should be left alone.

asmonet's avatar

@ragingloli: You don’t think sending pictures of underage boys and girls who are undressed to some degree if not entirely should be illegal?

ragingloli's avatar

not if he underage boys and girls that are depicted are the creators and distributors of pictures of their own bodies.
Laws against child pornography are there to protect children from exploitation, a situation that is clearly not present in the OP scenario.

asmonet's avatar

I disagree, just because they do not realize they’re being exploited or exploiting themselves is no reason to not protect and teach them through appropriate punishments. From your wording, it seems a small jump to teenage porn entrepreneurs.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@asmonet just because they do not realize they’re being exploited or exploiting themselves is no reason to not protect and teach them

I agree.

In fact the cognitive ability to reason is the last to develop and doesn’t occur until late teens, 16 being the earliest.

ragingloli's avatar

there needs to be a limit for the state to interfere with a person’s , including a child’s, self determination. In my estimation, this limit is crossed in this case. Disciplinng the children for misbehaviour is the parent’s duty.

asmonet's avatar

@RedPowerLady: Exactly, they not as a whole capable of guiding themselves. I knew it as a teenager, and I understand it even more now as an adult.

FGS's avatar

@asmonet But do you think it needs to go as far as branding a “setxter” as a sex offender? I think that grossly crosses the line of common sense.

asmonet's avatar

@DarkScribe: You’re ignoring a crucial point, those women were adults and presumably capable of weighing the consequences properly. And they weren’t distributing pictures of underage girls, they were sending pictures of full grown women.

A vast difference, imo.

asmonet's avatar

@FGS: As I said, I do not agree with how far the punishments have gone, I do however support punishment and legal action.

DarkScribe's avatar

@asmonet These aren’t “little” children, they are teens who are not yet old enough to vote. They would be unlikely to be sending such images to someone who they are not already intimate with.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@FGS I agree with that as well. I do not think they should be labeled as “sex offenders” for the most part (I can’t say all because I really do not know how severe this has gotten but I suspect most cases shouldn’t qualify as such).

asmonet's avatar

@DarkScribe: I see no difference. Some small children have sexual experience, if you can call it that. It doesn’t change the fact they they were exploited. Maybe the offender in those cases considers their relationship ‘intimate’. So souvenirs of that would be fine because of how the relationship is labeled? I don’t care how you reword it, it makes no sense to me to distribute the images of a child.

And by the way, some of these sexting cases involve children as young as twelve. I wouldn’t even call that a teenager, much less one who was ‘just shy of voting’.

FGS's avatar

@asmonet The questions begs then at what age do we regard young adults old enough to determine their own fate? 18? Why? because the law says they are old enough to vote? Does some magical physical, mental or emotional change occur between 11:59 and 12:00 on their birthday?

asmonet's avatar

Don’t even get me started on voting and drinking ages here.

Besides, as RPL said above, there are real changes in brain chemistry and development nearing the end of your teens and only complete at the age of 25. As our laws are written I feel that this kind of behavior falls under child pornography because we do have an age of consent and an age when you are recognized as an adult. Change the law, and we can discuss why and when it becomes wrong then. As the question is written, I’ll say again, I support prosecution – to an extent.

skfinkel's avatar

Keep the police out of the bedroom.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@FGS Actually there is a cognitive change that occurs between ages 16 and 25. For most people it is the latter. It is actual cognitive development.

asmonet's avatar

@skfinkel: That’s just it, it’s leaving the bedroom and entering an area where the public has access to it. In this case, we’re keeping what should be in the bedroom where it belongs – between the people involved.

RedPowerLady's avatar

sorry i see that was already posted, i must have been typing while it was sent in

asmonet's avatar

@RedPowerLady: It’s cool, baby. High five?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@asmonet High five and some rock :)

RedPowerLady's avatar

Since I didn’t add anything new last time. How about this?

“The frontal lobe is the last part of the brain to fully develop around age 25 and has the highest plasticity throughout life, meaning that it can easily change connection and make new ones.”

“The frontal lobe reaches full maturity around age 25, marking the cognitive maturity associated with adulthood.”

“The executive functions of the frontal lobes involve the ability to recognize future consequences resulting from current actions, to choose between good and bad actions (or better and best), override and suppress unacceptable social responses, and determine similarities and differences between things or events. Therefore, it is involved in higher mental functions.”

FGS's avatar

@RedPowerLady @asmonet I’m not arguing the point that there are definitive changes that occur. What I am saying is that all young adults change at different rates and at different ages. I don’t agree with a set date at which all are considered adults. I feel that the law (in general) loses quite a bit of credibility without common sense. The letter of the law can be applied very rarely.

asmonet's avatar

Okay, but no one is arguing that point. :)
I think we all agree. It is silly.

But it’s an average age, and one that’s been changed a few times if I remember correctly. and at the moment, it’s the best we’ve got for the protection of us all.

Now, I’m passing out. Goodnight, Fluther. :)

DarkScribe's avatar

@asmonet

>I see no difference. Some small children have sexual experience, if you can call it that.
> It doesn’t change the fact they they were exploited.

By whom? This “sexting” issue is something that teenage children are doing among themselves. It has nothing to do with small children.

> Maybe the offender in those cases considers their relationship ‘intimate’.

I have no idea what you are referring to – the issue is teens sexting each other. Who is the “offender”?

>So souvenirs of that would be fine because of how the relationship is labeled? I don’t
> care how you reword it, it makes no sense to me to distribute the images of a child.

You seem to be off on a totally different tack. The subject relates to teenagers swapping sexy pics. That is what “sexting” means.

>And by the way, some of these sexting cases involve children as young as twelve.
> I wouldn’t even call that a teenager, much less one who was ‘just shy of voting’.

I am sure that as is the norm, there are exceptions, nonetheless it is an issue with “teenagers” who have 3G type video phones, not little kids. It is all that I am talking about – the issues that are making headlines. High school age kids sending inappropriate pics to each other. All of the illustrated examples of such images that have found their way onto the web show well developed young girls with boobs and cleavage, not little kids. That is another issue entirely.

oratio's avatar

I feel saying that older teens can’t make judgment calls about their own body because their brain is not fully developed, is condescending in a similar manner as when men argued and railed against women’s suffrage.

Sex laws in the US are truly bizarre when it comes down to teen relationships. Give them advice and condoms.

It’s also demeaning to call teenage love “puppy love”, and say it’s not real love. I have little understanding for when people do that.

bythebay's avatar

This very thing has happened twice in our local high school. In both cases, a girl (15yo in both cases), took an explicit photo of herself and sent it to her boyfriend via phone. After an argument and a subsequent break-up, the boy(s) then did a “mass mailing”, sending the pics on to every contact in their phones, and the images ended up on myspace pages. Some of those recipients then forwarded it on, etc. In both cases the original recipient (who was the only intended recipient) was charged with distribution of child pornography. In one case the photo was received an opened by no less than 300 persons, the other was in the 200’s. Theres no way to document the veiws on the internet, nor where those images ultimately ended up.

Did the girls exercise bad judgment, yes – no doubt. BUT, it was their own image (albeit still underage) and it was clear that the photo was intended for one recipients eyes only. The subsequent humiliation, degradation, and mental duress they suffered was something that is incomprehensible. In the words of our States Attorney,”... there is no punishment we can dole out to these girls worse than what they have already suffered due to their own ignorance & naiveté.”

As for the boys who started the mass mailings…YES they should be punished, and they were. The very expensive and time consuming process is now taking place to follow through on all the others who not only opened the photo (which can happen inadvertently, but to those who opened and then forwarded, posted publicly, etc.

The question here seems not to be as much about common sense, but rather about malicious intent to destroy.

asmonet's avatar

@DarkScribe: Nitpicking is just fine for some. Sexting is not just for 16 and 17 year olds. Children are involved, even if you don’t necessarily agree with that label. I’ve said everything I needed to. Any and all of your questions for me I consider already addressed in my previous posts.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@oratio

I feel saying that older teens can’t make judgment calls about their own body because their brain is not fully developed, is condescending in a similar manner as when men argued and railed against women’s suffrage.)

I disagree in some sense. Yes I agree teens have control over their own body. But we are talking about a potentially very dangerous phenomenon. No one is saying they can’t do what they want with their body (i.e. have sex) we are saying that they shouldn’t do it pubicly.

Also I believe the comparison you made is quite inaccurate. Your brain does not, in fact, fully develop until you are older. There is no injustice in that argument. Whereas saying women can’t vote has what scientifically supported evidence behind it? Not that science is great but it is a justifiable argument.

dynamicduo's avatar

No. Just no. Legislating doesn’t make it go away, and texting at least has no chances of getting diseased. And honestly, the laws regarding such ‘child porn’ need to be revised, it’s obvious that these people aren’t prostituting themselves off such as we normally associate with child porn.

Charging a child with child porn manufacturing for taking a picture of their own body is just so absolutely wrong in intent. I can’t even describe how wrong it is, not to mention how harmful it is to them for the rest of their lives.

oratio's avatar

@RedPowerLady I agree fully to the first paragraph. True that their brains are not fully developed. But there is something I call mature enough, many of them are going to have sex in any case.

Most states in the US seem to think that 15 yo’s are mature enough to drive cars. Almost all western countries has the age of consent between 14–16 yo. This is a very common age for girls and boys to become sexually active.

What I believe is that you should give them the right to their own bodies, inform them of the risks, advice and supply them with contraceptives. It is not right to prosecute children for this.

Let’s agree to disagree.

asmonet's avatar

@dynamicduo: Generally, the people who take photos of themselves aren’t the ones running into legal trouble, it’s the ones who distribute the images who are punished more severely. Now, if the person distributed it themselves, then they should be punished, imo.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@oratio I agree with everything you said in your last post. I guess I’m not even quite sure where the disagreement is.

Clair's avatar

When did it become illegal to be nude and sexual? Everybodys got junk and theres nothing wrong with that. If youre willing to show it, then you shouldnt get in trouble. Its your body and your life. I dont know why america is ashamed of sex.

bythebay's avatar

@Clair: “If youre willing to show it, then you shouldnt get in trouble. Its your body and your life.” We’re talking about children here, teens, underage, minors.

Clair's avatar

Mhmm. They like sex too. Even if its for the wrong reasons and theyre clueless. If parents dont like it then they should handle it. I just dont think it should get out of parental authority.

bythebay's avatar

Mhmm – you obviously don’t have children, do you?

Clair's avatar

I dont. Altho i raised my little sister and children are my life. I understand what you mean but i dont think anyone will have an affect on children like their parents and they should handle it. Kids will be kids. And theyre not even the only ones who do it. Not under any circumstance.

ragingloli's avatar

This issue also just made me think of another question.
Should minors who physically injure (beat up) or bully other minors be charged with child abuse (physical or psychological/emotional mistreatment of children)?
This would even be worse than sexting since there is actual harm done.

asmonet's avatar

@ragingloli: Who said there’s no harm done because of sexting?

Clair's avatar

I do and i stand firmly behind it

asmonet's avatar

Tell that to the girl who gets her image texted to everyone in the school because she broke up with her boyfriend and he decides to act like a child.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Clair I understand your point but there have been several cases where it has caused serious problems.

Zaku's avatar

How about educating children about the pitfalls of using cell phones, cameras, and the Internet inappropriately, by having parents and teachers tell them real stories in responsible ways. If a child has heard the story of someone who shared naked pictures via phone and then they broke up and it got shown to everyone in their class, then they’ll realize that’s possible before they choose to make a digital photo and give it to someone. They can also tell how the person who distributed the photo may never be trusted again, and has to live with the guilty feelings of the impact of what he did to someone he once cared about.

Who really thinks we should make the drama and trauma of such a story worse by involving police and criminal charges?

justus2's avatar

@Clair I completely agree. There is nothing wrong with sex and certainly nothing wrong with nudity or sexting, even at 12 if you ask me, kids should be allowed to express themselves and if that is part of it then I say have fun and be careful.

Clair's avatar

I totally understand the problems it causes but sex is a natural part of life and growing up. It’s a finicky issue but it happens. Just teach them to be safe.

justus2's avatar

IT causes problems due to parents not educating their cildren, instead they just say “dont have sex” it is wrong

UScitizen's avatar

Hell no! All they are doing is experimenting sexually, but using technolgy to do so. If you bring the cops into it you could screw up thier lives forever, over NOTHING.

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