More on Child Pornography Laws Gone Wrong

This story has been getting a lot of press: As in so many other instances mentioned in this blog and elsewhere, a teen-aged girl takes naked pictures of herself and sends them to her friends (or whomever). Then, she gets caught and prosecutors wonder what to charge her with — after all, she did send sexual pictures of a minor (that is, herself), which is a form of child pornography. The reason this particular case is getting a lot of attention is because in Ohio, if found guilty of distribution of child pornography, this girl could be required to register as a sex offender for at least 20 years. However, the judge has discretion as to whether this is the best punishment, given the accused’s age (if she were 16, however, she would automatically be subject to adult penalties — scary). Let’s hope that, if found guilty, the judge shows some semblance of reason and does not force this girl to register just to “teach her a lesson.” I think she gets the picture.

The other interesting issue coming up is how to charge the recipients of this self-created child porn. In this case, an 8th-grade boy was sent to juvenile detention on child pornography charges because a girl in his class sent him (and others) a naked picture of herself. Why this boy was targeted in particular is unclear. But, it brings up an important question: Are these children at fault if a classmate decides to send, unsolicited, an illegal photo of themselves? One day, you — a middle school kid — are at home/on a bus/waiting for class to start, and you check your text messages: Up pops a picture of someone you know, a classmate, naked. You are now in possession of felony material. You had no idea it was coming. What do you do?

This is a very real situation today and we need to talk to our kids about how to address the situation. Clearly, the worst thing these kids can do is forward the picture around or post it anywhere. That can only get them in more trouble. But, if we keep punishing those who do receive the pictures as well as take them, I believe we will decrease the likelihood that any of these young people will tell an adult about them. And that will drive the situation underground and may even increase the market for these pictures so that adults will get their hands on them more easily. And that, we can probably all agree, is something we don’t want to happen.

This Might Work as a Deterrent…

Concerned your child might be tempted to send naked pictures of themselves to their sweetheart? Show them this article from the Denver Post, cut and pasted here in its entirety:

“ST. CHARLES, Ill. — A woman is accused of badgering her daughter’s teenage ex-boyfriend with hundreds of e-mails and text messages and threatening to post nude images of him on the Internet unless he started seeing the girl again, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

According to a Sleepy Hollow police officer’s sworn affidavit, investigators began looking into the matter Aug. 21 after the 13-year-old boy’s parents reported he had received hundreds of threatening e-mails and text messages from the woman, the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights reported.

The parents told police that the boy and his 13-year-old girlfriend had exchanged nude photos of themselves over their cellphones, and that after the breakup, the girl’s 42-year-old mother threatened to post the boy’s pictures online unless he reunited with her daughter, the newspaper reported.

Police are pursuing counts of intimidation, harassment and child pornography possession in the case, according to the newspaper. Investigators are analyzing cellphones and computers seized from the girl’s home and school.

Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti said that no charges have been filed and that the case has been turned over to a unit of the state’s attorney office that handles Internet investigations.

He called it ‘an odd situation.'”

This is wrong on so many levels, the main ones being:

1. Uh, how did the mother get a hold of these photos? This thirteen-year-old boy now lives with the fact that this lady has seen him naked. Yuck.

2. Not only has this lady seen him naked, but she now has the power to send this picture of him in his birthday suit to all her friends. Double Yuck.

This case should get kids to think more than twice before sending these types of pictures online or through their phones!

Alarmists find new things to worry about

A news release by PRNewswire highlights “startling data” regarding young people’s exposure to dubious content online — the second component of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. A study conducted by Nielsen Online for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) found that:

— “Nearly one in 20 teens online viewed drug-related videos during a one- month period” (uh, that means less than 5 percent, in case you haven’t noticed. Not too earth-shattering, IMO) AND 35 percent were under age 16. This means that just over 1% of youth under 16 have seen a drug-related video in the past month. Yawn. It gets even sketchier when we take the next statistic:

— Almost 40 percent of drug-related videos contain explicit use of drugs and/or intoxication.

Overall, it means this: less than two percent of youth have seen a video depicting the explicit use of drugs and/or alcohol in the past month. When considering only those youth under the age of 16, the number drops to under half a percent.

I got up for this? Seriously.

The article itself goes on to cite other statistics about exposure to questionable content online. But the sources are less than reputable (usually, sites trying to sell filter software), so are not worth repeating here.

While I commend researchers for looking beyong predator “stranger danger,” I hope that findings such as these do not become the new reason to panic about internet use.

New Study Gets My Kudos!

Not that my blessing carries a lot of weight, but a Rochester Institute of Technology study of more than 40,000 adolescents in the New York area specifically acknowledges in its report that cyberabuse and offending can include “Sending sexual messages or solicitations for sex that are unwanted by recipients” (p. 7). Aha! Someone who explicitly states in a research document that youth send harassing messages that are sexual in nature to other youth! This is not a generic “cyberbullying” study, nor is it a concern for “stranger danger” and creepy adults. It’s youth being sexual (in a negative way) towards other youth. And it is a problem, which they say begins in middle school (though one school district’s children said it began in 2nd grade).

In addition, key findings from the 7th-9th grade sample include:
14% had “communicated online with someone about sexual things”
3% admitted to asking someone for a nude picture
3% admitted to soliciting sexual chat

And 15% of older high schoolers said they engaged in sexual chat. And one in four had been asked about sexual things online.

The “big surprise” is that most of this sexual communication is among peers. A small minority (15%) said that sexual communication occured between them and an adult. Now, 15% is by no means zero, but the bulk is friend-to-friend and peer-to-peer.

Hopefully, data like these can be used to inform educators, parents, and even legislators about where our priorties should lie. And, to me, that is in beefing up the material in our sex education curricula. Ah, I am so good at my one-note tune.