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1 Mitchell Catie Mitchell Lisa Huff English 11 2A 22 May 2009 Prison for Children and Teens? There is much debate and many controversial feelings about the latest fad among teens; sexting. Sexting is a problem yes, but is it worth charging children to prison for adult crimes? This punishment is unconstitutional. They are just young immature children, and because it is becoming so common; many teens are just being pressured into sexting. Sending teens to prison for sexting is unconstitutional for many reasons. For one, “putting teen sexters on sex-offender registries alongside hardened criminals could haunt the teens for life, and cause them to be confused with rapists and child pornographers” (Hilden). How will this effect teens throughout their lives? This may cause serious psychological problems for years and years to come. Second, “statutes such as child pornographers and sex offenders, are plainly intended to apply primarily, if not exclusively, to adults, and the penalties are tailored accordingly. Indeed, some such statutes are expressly limited to apply only to parents, guardians, and others in a caretaking relationship with the child, and thus are more or less limited to adults” (Hilden). By the law stating that it is the caretaker, guardian, parents, or any relation to the child, it IS only accurate to say this punishment is limited to restrict adults. These children and teens have no right to have these consequences. Third, “such statutes, by their


2 Mitchell nature, may be invoked when crime is suspected, but not proven – betraying our system's tenet of "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." And, in this instance, the problem may not just be one of proof: The crime may not be able to be proven because, in fact, it was never committed in the first place” (Hilden). These teens have not committed an illegal crime amongst teens; there is no law that restricts the sending of nude pictures to other teens in the same age group. The punishment of prison time is extreme punishment for young innocent children. Dr. Elise Harrison, the associate director of Counseling and Psychological services at Fairfield University feels that a charge of life in prison is far too harsh of a punishment for minors caught sexting. “I think that many did not know that it was illegal,” she said. “I think if a minor is charged with sexting, a better approach would be to use the opportunity to educate the young person about the law and the possible negative consequences of sending material of a sexual nature over the phone or by email” (Harrison). I agree with Harrison on the fact that these children should not be punished so harshly, but we should educate them about the law, so when they get older they will understand what they could be charged for. They will have a better understanding of why sexting is wrong and the serious consequences that will follow. The trend of sexting caught the attention of the New York Times, where one reporter wrote, “The trouble begins with the dicey mix of teenagers’ old-age sexual curiosity, notoriously bad judgment and modern love of electronic sharing- especially of pictures they take with their digital cameras and cell phones” (Elkas). Most teens are just curious and hormone driven to do anything it takes to please people they


3 Mitchell like. Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, states, "Teens are stupid and impulsive and clueless, but that doesn’t make them criminals. Child porn charges that land you on an internet registry even if you’re a juvenile? That’s a heck of a way to teach a kid a lesson about not being careless” (Walczak). Walczak is right, how are kids and teens going to learn if all we do is throw them into prison? The answer is we’re not teaching them anything. As you might expect, peer pressure plays a role in the “fad” of sexting. Of those who sent such content, 51 percent of teen girls cited “pressure from a guy,” while 18 percent of teen boys blamed pressure from girls. Those who reportedly sent such pictures, 71 percent of girls and 67 percent of boys said they sent or posted content to a boyfriend or girlfriend, while 21 percent of the girls and 39 percent of the boys say they sent it to someone they wanted to date (Teen Sexting). As you can see, most teens and kids are sexting just to get someone to like them. The pressure to feel wanted makes you do things you normally would not do otherwise. In a preview for the Tyra show, fourteen-year-old Keaton explains: "Guys don't talk to you unless you do this. Like I know there are some percent of girls who are extremely gorgeous and they just happen to talk to them, but, I mean, you have to have a little more something" (Keaton). Can you image why these young teens feel this way? They feel like they have to “put out” to fit in. As parents, family, friends, and peers, we need to inform and confront each other that there is absolutely no reason to expose yourself. We need to make our teens and children comfortable with themselves and comfort them when they need it.


4 Mitchell Before we decide whether sexting should be a crime, a tort, or neither, and how to punish it, we need a better sense of why it has caused such an outcry in the first place. Is it because we don't want to acknowledge teen sexuality, because we are uncomfortable with teen speech rights, or because we are furious about teen bullying and humiliation, or perhaps all of the above? Sexting is becoming a problem, but is it serious enough to send children and teens to prison?

Works Cited Elkas, Alex. "Online Exclusive: Sexting places teens at risk." The Fairfield Mirror. 8 Apr. 2009. The Mirror. 22 May 2009 <http://www.fairfieldmirror.com/news/online-exclusive-sexting-places-teens-atrisk-1.1737516>. Hilden, Julie. "Why Sexting Should Not Be Prosecuted as "Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor"" FindLaw's Writ | Legal Commentary. 13 May 2009. 22 May 2009 <http://writ.lp.findlaw.com/hilden/20090513.html>. Katy, Intern. "Jezebel - Teens Respond To Tyra Show On Sexting - sexting." Jezebel: Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing. 23 Mar. 2009. 22 May 2009 <http://jezebel.com/5180587/teens-respond-to-tyra-show-onsexting>. "Teen sexting: stupid & illegal | SafeKids.com." Internet safety & civility | SafeKids.com. 30 Mar. 2009. Teen Sexting: stupid and illegal. 22 May 2009 <http://www.safekids.com/2009/03/30/teen-sexting-stupid-illegal/>. Zetter, Kim. "ACLU Sues Prosecutor Over Sexting Child Porn Charges | Threat Level | Wired.com." Wired News. 25 Mar. 2009. Threat Level. 22 May 2009 <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/03/aclu-sues-da-ov/>.


Prison for Children and Teens?