Vague news report of middle school kids “sexting ring” completely misses the point

by dmatson on December 19, 2016

What exactly is a “Sexting ring”? It sounds scandalous and illegal. But that is what is reported as having happened at a middle school in Rapid City, South Dakota.

KOTA-TV reports about the “ring”, and that 40 students were caught and disciplined for, what one can only guess, involved a group sharing of “sexts”, or, sexually explicit text or images between this kids during school hours.

Parents and community members have an active discussion on the station’s facebook page, where commenters mostly chide parents for not controlling their kid’s phone and texting activity.

It’s simply a fact a modern life that high school kids, and many middle school kids, are constantly attached to their phones and electronic devices. It is a lifeline to all social communication and interaction.

Kids of this age are also, quite normally discovering their own sexuality. And they are at an age where impulsivity, peer pressure, and poor design making collide.

Mix this in with the easy of technology and culture of photo sharing, then “sexting” is a 100% inevitable and NORMAL side effect.

No, of course it’s not a good idea. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t simply normal and age-appropriate rebellion and acting out.

Educating children about the dangers and risks of sharing intimate or sexually suggestive or explicit images is an appropriate response, for both parents and teachers.

But treating it as a horribly deviant or abhorrent act, or worse, a crime is ridiculous.

Sexting can be a crime. But that doesn’t mean it should be.

Many states do treat any sharing of an explicit image of a minor as an act of child pornography, a felony sex offense. Even when it is simply kids snapping photos of themselves and sharing with other kids.

But just because it is against the law doesn’t mean the law makes sense.

Child pornography laws were written to protect kids from being exploited by adults. They were also written before the time that every kid had a high-resolution video camera in their pocket, and the means to instantly publish and share those images without ever considering the consequences.

Reform of sexting laws should be a priority for all states. Our kids shouldn’t be facing felony charges, and a life as a sex offender for engaging in perfectly normal, if dumb and impulsive behavior.

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