In an age where things can go viral and become internet sensations virtually overnight, it’s easy for one picture to end up in the wrong hands. Once a photo is out, that’s it. There’s no taking it back or choosing who does and does not see it. Despite this, students still fail to take the dangers of sexting as seriously as they should, continually sending racy photos to each other and becoming victims of yet another sexting scandal.
One of the most major and obvious results of a sexting scandal may be the immense amount of emotional pain that is experienced. According to mental health and substance abuse therapist Nicole Dingwell, LLMSW, those who have had racy photos circulated throughout the population may feel overwhelming amounts of shame and humiliation. This can result in students dropping out or changing schools, going to therapy and even committing suicide. However, they are not the only ones affected. Students who share the pictures with others can also experience guilt and anxiety for hurting someone else.
In addition to causing large amounts of emotional distress, sexting can also cause legal ramifications. In Michigan, sexting can lead to felony sexual offender charges. Additionally, any teen who takes explicit photos of themselves can face being charged with manufacturing child pornography, which would result in becoming a registered sexual offender and up to 20 years in prison. Anybody who stores the photos on his or her phone or computer is also liable to be prosecuted. Although a recent study done by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy showed that 39% of teens have sent sexually explicit photos, many aren’t aware that sexting can have such dire consequences.
Some may say that sexting is just a natural part of teenagers experimenting with their sexuality. This may be true; however, there are other outlets for this curiosity that do not involve releasing a photo into the world of media for everyone to potentially see. In addition, what may start out as an innocent moment of fun with a significant other can quickly spiral into a vicious act of revenge or payback.
With negative results like public humiliation and the risk of jail time and/or hefty fines, it is a wonder that students choose to deliberately refuse to remain ignorant and refuse to take the issue seriously It doesn’t take a lot to remedy this situation; merely pausing before hitting the send button and thinking twice about what could very well become public would suffice. By Melanie Sweet / Opinion Writing
A 14 year old and a 15 year old from Pennsylvania were charged with manufacturing, disseminating, and possession of child pornography all because of a photo. They were charged for possessing and distributing a photo. They were charged for sexting. Such dramatic legal action is completely unnecessary in sexting cases; teens should be left to handle the situation privately.
Laws against sexting don’t deter teenagers from doing as they please. Almost all teenagers suffer from a similar problem: the I-know-it-all syndrome. Adults can tell the teens not to drink or smoke have sex or do drugs, but with studies from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University proving that 81% of high school students have consumed alcohol, 70% have smoked cigarettes, and 41% of 15 to 16 year olds admit to being sexually active, the truth is that teens aren’t listening.
While this may come as a shock to these adults, it won’t make an average high school student flinch. Listening to a parent, counselor, or teacher drone on about the dangers of sexting seems to have little or no impact on the 20% of teens who have admitted to sending nude/semi-nude photos or the 39% who have sent sexually suggestive messages. If a teen makes the self-destructive decision to sext, they should deal with the repercussions without involving the law.
Not only do teens have to deal with the humiliation involved with private photos being distributed, but they have to deal with the unnecessary grief of being convicted as a felon. The law puts an excess amount of distress on teens who sext; in most states, convicted “sexters” are registered as sexual predators.
According to the law, the embarrassment of having naked photos leaked to peers is not enough of a punishment.
“There’s a lot of shame involved in getting your picture out there,” mental health therapist Nicole Dingwell, LLMSW, said.
Teens are already aware of how quickly a nude/semi-nude photo can circulate among peers. There’s no need to criminalize the teens who are aware of this, but are still willing to risk burdening themselves with shame.
Adults may argue that high school students are too young to engage in the risqué behavior of sexting. But what they may be overlooking is the fact that 16 is the legal age for sexual consent in Michigan. When a teen turns 16 he or she is officially allowed to carry on a physical relationship with another teen 16 or older, but sexting is still a felony. The laws seem to be contradicting. If the law dictates that teenagers are old enough to have sex, sexting shouldn’t be considered a punishable crime among these same teens.
Teens are allowed to drive when they turn 16. Allowed to give legal consent to have sex at 16. Allowed to have a job two years before they turn 16. But not allowed to sext without legal ramifications. Teens are granted privileges because they are expected to be able to handle the amount of responsibility which the liberties entail. These young adults are forced to face the self-inflicted consequences that result from their decisions, which do not involve the law; sexting should be no different. By Richa Bijlani / Opinion Writing
A 16 year old boy sits in jail a few feet away from a rapist and a serial killer, not cut out for the life that his ultimate visit to prison entails while a 15 year old girl becomes a part of the exclusive “Sex Offender” list. One would think these punishments would come from something much more than simply sending an explicit picture to a romantic partner, but all these punishments and more can ensue from the act of sexting. While people should think twice before attempting it, sexting should be taken less serious and the punishments should be much less severe.
Lately there have been many thoroughly offensive tirades against the act of sending a sexually explicit picture to a partner. Numerous programs and people see it as a crime befitting charges of a felony, and think it ethical to lock up teenagers for experimenting with their sexual curiosity. Technology brings a multitude of things but society as a whole should readily be able to adapt and realize that high school kids do not need to have their lives ruined because of one mistake when making mistakes is one of the biggest parts of being a teenager.
Police officers also seem to ignore just how many people have participated in this activity. According to the Seattle times 20% of teenagers admit to sending a nude picture to someone else at least once. With these numbers the police force should definitely take a better look at the punishment they’re dishing out to these kids. Putting 20% of America’s teenagers behind bars is utterly ridiculous.
Punishments for sexting could be better handled by the parents. The guardians of these teenagers should definitely be considered when thinking of fitting punishments. If a sexting issue did get out of hand and everyone involved suffered mental and emotional anguish, then parents should be allowed to deal with it accordingly by taking away phone privileges and exercising house arrest. It’s a much better solution than sending the teenager off to jail for years and turning him/her into a real criminal there.
However, it’s obvious that there is a lot of opposition to this opinion. Many people believe that the punishments that ultimately come with sexting will serve as a deterrent to any other teens who think about doing it. However, there have been cases of teens getting severely punished left and right, however according to a random poll conducted at a teen journalism camp 79% of the teens there knew someone who sexted personally. Those numbers, along with the steady increase in technology strongly suggest no end to sexting anytime soon, regardless of punishments.
The world is already filled with so many punishments and restrictions that it seems constricting and felony charges for consensual sexting are not a reasonable addition. Teenagers have experimented with their sexuality since the beginning of time and the availability of immediate technology should not make it so dangerous. If more people opposed these inane punishments then maybe more teens could be reading books instead of becoming hardened criminals. By Mario Ogu / Opinion Writing
Sexting, a relatively new term, can be used in several contexts; the most serious use of the word though, is to describe the exchange of sexually explicit photographs between teens. This behavior, seen frequently in the media these past few years, can destroy more than a young person’s reputation–it can destroy their future. Taking into account the emotional trauma and psychological issues that accompany sexting. school policies and law enforcement should be geared more towards helping victimes recover, not towards punishing them.
It is important to consider the psychological consequences of sexting. A mental health and substance abuse therapist, Nicole Dingwell, explains that when dealing with sexting victims in therapy, she often observes signs of depression, anxiety and shame. To have something so intimate out there for all to see is devastating. A person with this many hurdles to overcome does not need a court date on top of it. Nor do they deserve it.
Society should take a close look at the people they klabel criminals–labels are hard to remove. With the law enforcement in place, many “sexter” have landed themselves on the sex offender list. An adult who distributes child pornography is a criminal; a teen whose nude photo is leaked is not. It’s not a thin line to cross, but a very thick one.
It’s rare to find a teenager who does not know someone who has “sexted.” That’s a lot of “criminals” out there. Or, a more feasible explanation– exploring sexuality as a teenager is part of a developmental process, and paired with teen impulses, mistakes happen.
On the other hand, you have adults who argue teens who choose to”sext” know that what they are doing is wrong–they fully understand the risk of hitting that send button. But actually, they don’t. The ability to foresee consequences to actions is an advanced cognitive process that comes with maturation. If a teen could see clearly the mess he or she would create, and pain to be felt, it is hard to believe anyone would press end.
Having pornographic photos leaked is a teen’s nightmare, and while putting them in handcuffs might stop them from sexting, it does not serve as a solution. Society as a whole has strayed far from compassion and looks only to point the finger to serve “justice.” By Christina Leninger / Opinion Writing
Sexting is not a crime. It’s just a mistake.
Phillip Alpert had just turned 18 when he sent a naked photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend, a photo she had taken and sent him, to dozens of her friends and family after an argument. He will now stay on the sex offender list until he is 43. His life is ruined. “Sexting” is a media-coined term that refers to images sent over cellular devices as a text message to other people that include sexually explicit content. This offense is very harmful to teens mentally, and those consequences they will receive are already enough; sexting does not warrant the legal trouble that these students find themselves in the midst of.
The emotional and social impact that those sexters experience is a harsh enough consequence for their actions. According to Mental Health and Substance Abuse therapist Nicole Dingwell , it is very common for the teens to have self-esteem problems, depression, and anxiety. They also become victimized and reported about in the paper. Teens who do it also have a much greater chance of having a sex addiction as they get older. The behavior is addictive, and one becomes immune to the shock others feel at the sight of sexually explicit material.
The legal charges are just too much. Being registered on the sex offender list is detrimental to futures. The registry lists age, hair color, eye color and home address and is readily available to anyone and everyone. Most of the registered offenders must attend classes where they are trained not to reoffend and to deal with their pedophilia. They are stuck with grown adults who have done terrible things. Offenders also find it extremely difficult to get a job- when a teen pushes that send button, they destroy their future.
Critics might argue that kids need to learn from their actions, that sexting is a horrible thing to do, and that serving time in jail or on the list is a good way to punish the teens for what they have done. However, the teens who have sexted will learn nothing more than distrust in their government by doing time in jail or being placed on the sexual predator list. Being charged for a felony is overkill. All the teenager has done was make one mistake. They acted on impulse and ruined the rest of their life. This is not something the government should support.
The “crime” of sexting is not actually a crime. It is a mistake. The child pornography distribution criminal laws that comprise sexting offenses were largely written with sexual predators in mind, and don’t reflect the reality that most of the crimes are between teens via cell phones. Teenagers are known for their impulse actions and pushing “send” does not require legal action. They are in enough trouble already. By Megan Isom / Opnion Writing
BRRZZZZZZZ. Jack looks up as his cell phone vibrates. Excited, he grabs it and looks at the message he’s been waiting so long to see – his girlfriend, in a “special pose.” He is partaking in an act known as sexting that has recently sparked up a raging debate. Despite what Jack may believe, sexting is a shameful act and an alarming sign of the times.
One of the issues at the center of the debate is how the act of sexting illustrates a moral decline within teenagers. Sexually charged messages and images are quite simply inappropriate material for teenagers to be sharing with each other. However, the act of sending a lewd photograph or text message alone is not usually where the “moral decline” trouble sits. With the distribution of images and messages comes exploitation – students can, and will, use these messages against one another in the case of an argument arising between them.
This raises a second problem at the heart of the argument: children that are ignorant to the true ramifications of their actions. From a law enforcement perspective within Michigan, sexting is a simple misdemeanor. However, consequences tend to arise when the images and texts involved in the act of sexting are put to use with malicious intentions. Take, for example, a girl who has broken up with her boyfriend after having sexted him numerous times. Her ex might pass along the messages and images in an attempt to ruin her reputation and create problems in her life. Situations such as these have the capability to escalate into physical conflict, supplemented with virtual or physical bullying.
Finally, there lies a more disturbing implication within the issue of sexting. Any law enforcement expert can point out an increase in child exploitation rates within the past 10 to 15 years, and many link it to the rise of the Internet and other communication technologies. This means that teenagers are increasing the amount of sexting they do because the technology has enabled them. Without proper education and enforcement, these rates will only continue to grow as technology improves.
The classic argument for sexting, of course, is that “it’s just natural for teenagers to act this way.” It certainly is, as teenagers are at a sexually charged stage of development. However, teenagers who are oblivious to the possible consequences of sexting can land themselves in hot water. They need to understand that there are other methods of expressing feelings for a fellow teenager.
While Jack’s too late to be saved, there’s still hope for teenagers everywhere. After all, teenagers aren’t stupid. With proper education and awareness about the situation, and clarifications regarding the consequences of sexting, hopefully teenagers will step up while sexting dies down. By Connor Park / Opinion Writing