Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Should Parents of 'Sexting' Teens Be Punished?

A new law introduced by State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin, Texas), would make "sexting" a Class C misdemeanor requiring a court appearance for the teenaged violator, and would allow a judge to 'sentence' his or her parent to participate in an education program on sexting's long-term harmful consequences.

Right now, teens caught sexting in Texas can be charged with possessing or trafficking in child pornography. There are similar laws in Florida, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Utah that I know about. Secularly speaking, I find that interesting considering teens, in my opinion, are still children themselves to be charged with "child" pornography charges. If children looking at children, is considered "illegal porn", then why isn't the act of adults looking at adults "illegal porn", as well? (Hmmm...) This offense carries the potential of decades of prison time, plus the requirement that the teen register for the rest of his or her life as a sex offense pervert. Yet, it is perfectly ok for adults to commit the same crime, and its legal. Why is it that children 17 and under are worth "protecting" from the dangers of porn, but people over 17 do not have the same protection, resulting in porn addictions and sometimes broken marriages? What about the cash strapped women who result to stripping in bars, are they not worth protection from the danger of strangers 'oogling' their bodies, and the emotional scars of humiliation and the potential ruin of their reputation in the future?

Lust is lust, correct? If we're ignoring moral absolutes, and not taking a stance that sex before marriage is wrong, then why is sexting a problem? Kids are taught about sex in middle school, and are offered condoms at school. Parents are fighting for legislation that requires their notification and consent for their underage child (=teen) to have an abortion, which means if a kid can make it to an abortion clinic, our society has said it is ok for them to make a life and death decision to have an abortion without their parents even knowing what is going on.

However, it is NOT ok for them to LOOK at pictures, of something they have seen already, in most cases, in person? Underage children having pictures of other underage children, is really how different than adults having pictures of other adults, if we're not, as a society, saying that sex should be off limits until marriage?

In a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 15 percent of cell-phone-owning teens ages 12 to 17 had received nude or nearly nude photos by phone. Four percent of the teens said they had sent out sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves. In a different survey by Cosmogirl.com, 15% of the teens (defined as 13-19 years old) who have sent or posted nude/seminude images of themselves, say they have done so to someone they only knew online. (THAT is a statistic that needs to cause worry in all parents hearts!) 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 46% of all high school students reported ever having had sex—46%of girls and 46% of boys. In a January 2010 study by the Guttmacher Institute, in 2006, the pregnancy rate was 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15–19, the abortion rate was 19.3 abortions per 1,000 in the same age range. So for every 71 pregnancies, 19 ended in abortion. That's about 27%, correct? Yet, excuse my simplicity here, but these states are more concerned with ... naked pictures? Can we all agree that the emotional complications of teen sex in general, and the scars that come from pregnancies ended in abortion, and the challenges of being teen parents (especially mothers) are far harder to overcome than the potential "dangers" of sexting?

Then you have this introduced legislation that holds parents accountable for what their kids are doing. Society doesn't want parents to be involved if their daughters are pregnant and wanting abortions, something that will scar them emotionally for the rest of their life- but they want parents involved in the receipt of pictures over cell phones? Can we say "misplaced priorities"? Why should parents have to assume responsibility for something that their child, knowing it is wrong, made a conscious choice to do anyway?

Senator Watson says "This bill's legal provisions ensure that minors are punished for their improper behavior, but do not face life altering criminal charges,"; "This bill ensures that prosecutors, and, frankly, parents, will have a new, appropriate tool to address this issue," "It helps Texas laws keep up with technology and our teenagers.". Really? I'm glad to see that he is able to recognize the extremity of the existing laws, but if my child was caught shoplifting at the mall, when I went to the police station to pick him/her up, and asked them if they knew what they were doing was wrong, yet chose to do it anyway- you bet your bottom dollar I would not have an issue with them receiving the punishment required by law. Should I receive a punishment because my child shoplifted knowing it was wrong? I think not. There is no difference between this and sexting. If a child is old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, then they are old enough to accept the consequences of their actions.

If a child never experiences the cause and effect of this world, they will never learn. How many habitual felons are there out there whose parents took the blame for them when they were young? I believe if we as a society, say that parents must be punished for a child's actions, then that child should not be allowed to behave as an adult until the parents are no longer accountable for said child's actions. They should not drive, or vote. Then again, I'm still trying to figure out why sexting is illegal, but teenage sex ... isn't.

What are your thoughts? Should sexting even be illegal? Should parents be punished for a child's actions?

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