Monday, April 6, 2009

An Examination of Sexting- Developing Safe Technology Practices

Description of the Problem

In this new era of technology, it is almost unheard of to have a household without 'basic' technology. A high definition television, wireless laptop computer, and smart phones are all devices that are considered normal in our era. For teenagers and even many tween-agers, having a cell phone is just as commonplace as having a backpack. Many children are given cell phones for emergencies, however as with all technology, acceptable practices and guidelines must be established. For most children between the ages of 9-18, communication with peers becomes almost consuming, however with technology, friends are able to stay in constant communication with one another using their cell phones, social networking such as twitter and facebook, and even digital cameras. Although the intention is usually harmless, with the need for acceptance with peers also comes the ranging emotions that come along with adolescence. The new underground trend that is spreading like wild fire is that of young people sending pictures, often wearing little or no clothing and unfortunately in compromising positions to one another. While it is assumed that sharing of information that may be considered distasteful or at worst lewd, is now called 'sexting' and can lead your teenager to jail for a long time.

Explanation of the Issues Surrounding Sexting

Although sexting is illegal due to the implications of child pornography, there have been many cases in recent months where teenagers sending or receiving messages from friends (usually boyfriends and girlfriends) are accused of the felony of distributing child pornography. Unfortunately, the very laws that were created to protect children from predators is being used against them in the court of law. For example, a young couple ages 16 and 17 were sent to jail for possessing pictures of one another in an undisclosed sexual act, even though they never send the pictures to anyone else. Not only that, but if a friend sends an elicit picture to your cell phone and the picture is still in there when the police find out about it, you too would be found in possession of child pornography. To add insult to injury, if that picture should happen to cross over state lines, federal charges could be placed against you. While I am sure that something must be done to protect young people from the possible backlack that could arise from creating and distributing pictures of themselves in a sexually suggestive manner, there must be a better way!

Personal Opinion and Possible Solutions

Personally, this issue resonates loudly with me. A distant family member of my own was found with suggestive pictures of himself in his cellphone. He claims and the evidence in his cell phone supports that the pictures were not forwarded, however the fact that he committed a crime sits uncomfortably with me. As adults, his parents stepped up and handled the situation swiftly by explaining what possible negative effects could evolve had the pictures ended up in the wrong hands. Also, as parents, they implemented swift and appropriate consequences that will hopefully cause reflection before making impulsive and immature acts such as this. However, do I feel that he should have been found guilty of child pornography charges, absolutely not!

While this growing trend most assuredly needs consequences, they should be appropriate for the intent of the act and suitable for the age group that is being addressed. Looking into ways to use technology to manage technology should be investigated. Creating a pin number or password before pictures can be shared on teens cellphones could help. Also, adjusting the current legislature so that this new crime can be handled in a new way is also a thought that needs to be explored further.

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