Under a new bill passed Wednesday in the TN Senate, sexting penalities for minors becomes a “slap on the wrist”.
Juveniles will no longer face charges such as “exploitation of a minor” or be subject to registering as a juvenile sex offender. Instead, minors will be charged with an “unruly offense” in a junvenile court. Unruly offenses typically include such things as skipping school and violation of curfew. Apparently charging teens with sexting, which is viewed by law as the equivalent of sending child pornography, is messing with prosecutors sense of right and wrong. And the idea of charging teens with sexting, even if it’s consensual, seems like it might ruin teens lives if they are charged with a felony crime and put on a registry. DUH? What about ruining adults lives? Doesn’t that matter?
Amy Hasinoff, author of Sexting Panic say “teens are going to send racy pictures to each other no matter what, we need to educate them about sexting in the educational system, not in the criminal justice system.”
I’m all for lowering penalties on sex offenses. In this country we hear the word “sex” and it makes us crazy and not always in a good way. But when we change what has been considered a sex offense for minors to “unruly behavior” then isn’t it about time we start looking at that same offense and other non-contact, non-violent offenses for not only minors but for adults, in the same light?
I get tired of hearing about how teens are too immature to know “not to do certain things”, yet parents give them the latest IPhone and put them behind the wheel of a car and let them have at it. Sorry people, I don’t buy the “too young, they didn’t know any better” excuse anymore. Kids know what sexting is, they know that when they send a provocative photo to someone on their phone that it could end up on the internet for the world to see. They may play dumb when confronted about it after the fact, when damage is done, but they know, believe me. Kids today are not stupid.
Most minors are far more advanced than many of us were at their age. Don’t tell me they don’t know what they’re doing. They may not fully understand the consequences of their actions but that’s because their parents (not schools) didn’t teach them about consequences. And for God’s sake, why are parents always blaming the schools for not teaching their children this stuff. Parents, get a grip, these kids are your responsibility, if they’re sexting it’s because you didn’t teach them they shouldn’t or because no matter what you’ve taught them, they want to do it and they’re just going to do it anyway.
If we are going to view sexting by minors as a “minor offense”, something as inconsequential as skipping school or violating curfew, which almost everyone has done at some point in their lives, then how can we suggest that the same offense when committed by an adult is a felony.? Either the crime is that terrible or it’s not. If a teen hits and kills someone with a car, is that crime any less terrible than if an adult hits and kills someone? We can make all the excuses we want for the teenage driver’s youth and immaturity but it’s all still the same crime no matter how you slice it.
I think Gov. Bill Haslam of TN should look at this new bill as just a “stepping stone” to making changes in other TN sex offender laws. This new bill seems to allow discrimination of people by age when it comes to sex offenses. Sexting under 18, you’re just “unruly”, a day over your 18th birthday and suddenly you’re a ” felon and registered sex offender”.
Sexting isn’t an “age related crime”. We can’t have it both ways, either it’s bad or it’s not.
Gov. Bill Haslam, make up your mind!