The Drudge link made it sound like the teen sex apocalypse, but a new Pennsylvania law looks like a pretty smart piece of legislation:
“A 13-year-old girl took a photo; she was naked from the waist up, took a picture of herself and sent it to a 14-year-old boy at his request,” said Detective Sgt. Henry Fontana, of Greensburg Police.
The boy deleted the photo and did not forward it to friends. It was the girl’s mother who later found the photo on her phone and called police.
“Under the new law that just went into effect on Christmas Eve, that is a summary offense,” said Detective Sgt. Fontana.
The new law creates a tiered system for adjudicating sexting cases that differentiates between those who make bad decisions and those who have bad intentions.
Under the new law, minors over the age of 12 charged for the first time will get a summary citation. A second offense will result in a misdemeanor charge.
Felony child pornography laws remain on the books and could still apply if the photos are distributed with malicious intent.
Kids and teens have engaged in sex play ever since there were kids and teens. Technology gives them new ways to play — and new ways to hurt themselves and each other, too. Imagine what would have happened in this case had the boy immediately forwarded that picture to all of his buddies. Or to everyone in his address book. And he could have done it in the blink of an eye, without taking the time for careful consideration which 14-year-old boys are usually known for. (Cough-cough.)
But under the old law, both of these kids — having engaged in some pretty mild sex play — would have been labeled sex offenders and possibly faced kiddie porn charges. Their lives would have been ruined. It’s my belief that the proper adult response to teens being teens is usually-but-not-always to close one’s eyes and cover one’s ears and sing “lalalalalalalala” very loudly.
Pennsylvania seems to have found a solid middle ground here: A disincentive for kids to send each other easily-distributed naked pictures of themselves. And if they do? Then PA will no longer punish a mostly-innocent act the same way they’d punish a genuine purveyor of child porn.
ONE MORE THING: The tab for this story stayed open in my News Stuff to Blog About Later browser window for a couple days where I ruthlessly ignored it, because this is an oogie topic to try and write about. Doubly so as the father of two small boys, and with no idea what technological advances will be helping to tickle their fancies in a few years from now. But I’m glad I did, because it’s helped to clarify my thinking on the matter.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go close my eyes and cover my ears and sing “lalalalalalalala” very loudly.