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Pols Get the Memo That Teen Sexters Are Not Sex Offenders

Lawmakers are thankfully starting to see the nuance in cases of teen sexting run amok.

You know how 17-year-old kids are getting slapped with sex-offender charges, simply because they're texting each other naked photos?

Think that's bullshit? Me too. And so do a handful of states that are customizing their laws to be more lenient on teens who go overboard with the sexy-texts. New York is the latest to create legislation treating a case differently when juveniles are found guilty of distributing naked or sexually explicit photos of themselves or others. Brooklyn assemblyman Alan Maisel co-sponsored the "Cyber Crime Youth Rescue Act." The point, he said, is to keep teenagers from "getting themselves into serious trouble for adolescent behavior."

Instead of being tried as a sex offender, which makes absolutely no sense considering the insane amount of underage sexters, the law proposes that a first-time offender would be assigned mandatory training. The program would teach them potential legal consequences, and also hammer home the idea that the Internet is forever. (Which, as Jezebel points out, should be "mandatory for all humans." Ahem, Anthony Weiner.) It would also teach kids what impact the photos could have on their relationships and careers.

My first reaction: Phew! This seems like a much better solution than expanding the sex offender list tenfold and branding a teenage kid for life. Still, I could see this program easily devolving into a sanctimonious critique of teen sexuality. In theory, I have no problem with teens sending naked pictures to each other—as long as they keep that noise private and off the Internet. Because teens are sexual. They always have been, they always will be. It's natural for them to explore their desires physically and visually.

Unfortunately, all you have to do is have a nasty breakup and your ladybits could be all over Facebook, so I understand why kids should be taught to have discretion. I just hope that as this conversation develops, it's about protecting kids' privacy, not about policing their sexuality.

photo (cc) from Flickr user RobW_

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