February 2011 Archives

by Jordan Dickie


As grown men, we all remember what it's like to be a boy on the brink of manhood: the subversive sexual angst; passing notes to a girl in our class; and, of course, that tell-tale "stash" tucked under our beds.  But what happens when that otherwise normal teenaged sexuality begins to incorporate modern technology?  What happens when the content of your average teenager's cell phone constitutes child pornography?  And how does a father tell his son that he could be committing a sex crime legally on par with rape and statutory pedophilia simply by pushing a button on his cell phone?

 

This is where the American legal system has fallen behind the times.  Thanks to the prevalence of cell phones and laptops in schools, teenaged boys are being convicted of sex crimes, and even being registered on their state's sex offender registries, for the possession and distribution of child pornography.  But how is this happening?  How is it even possible that our teenagers have suddenly become a generation of sexual predators?

 

The answer is that they haven't.  They've merely fallen victim to the technologies that have made it all too easy to blur the line between typical teenaged behavior and a felony that would otherwise be prosecuted by a district attorney.  It's the perfect example of where the technologies that have come to define our children's culture have left the American judicial system scrambling to catch up. 

 

It's called "Sexting": the technological equivalent of passing dirty notes to your girlfriend in class.  The only difference is, with sexting, winks, kisses, and other intimate affections can now be captured in digital photos and sent instantly from one cell phone to another.  Unfortunately, these photos can cause a lot of trouble if they find their way into the wrong hands, and what's even worse is that they can even land a fourteen-year-old boy on the sex offender registry in Indiana for the possession and distribution of child pornography.

 

In Orlando, Florida, eighteen-year-old Phillip Alpert is serving probation for a crime that had him registered as a sex offender.  He made the mistake of emailing nude pictures of his teenaged girlfriend after they broke up.  It's an unfortunate case of immaturity on Phillip's part, most certainly, but an otherwise common occurrence in an age where teenaged relationships will often end with the release of flirtatious images after someone's feelings were hurt.  This legally turns into a case of possession and distribution of child pornography, however, because his girlfriend of two years was sixteen at the time.  And even though Phillip was seventeen when the pictures were taken, and it was his girlfriend who took them, because he had them in his possession and was sharing him after he turned eighteen, Phillip was legally an adult sex offender.

 

"You will find me on the registered sex offender list next to people who had raped children, molested kids, things like that, because I sent child pornography," the newly-turned eighteen-year-old Phillip said.  "You think of child pornography, you think of six-year-old, three-year-old little kids who can't think for themselves, who are taken advantage of.  That really wasn't the case."

 

After releasing the photos of his girlfriend to his friends, Phillip was arrested by Florida police, charged, and finally convicted for the possession and distribution of child pornography.  He was sentenced to five years probation and as required by Florida law, because he was technically an adult during the offence, Phillip was registered as a sex offender on a publicly accessible state website. 

 

"I'm a sex offender," Phillip says.  "If you type my name into the search engine online, you will find me."

 

Phillip has since then been kicked out of college, cannot travel out of the country without contacting his probation officer, and is currently having trouble finding a job because of his status as a convicted felon - and he will continue to be registered as such until his name is finally removed from the registry after he turns forty-three. 

 

What makes this legal phenomenon an even more compelling issue is the fact that Florida is considered one of the more lenient states when it comes to juveniles convicted of sex offences.  In Florida, Main, and Alaska, offenders are only put on the sex offender registry if they are tried as adults.  Among the thirty-eight states that include juvenile sex offenders in their registries, however, South Dakota juveniles can be registered at fifteen, and in Indiana, offenders can be registered on publicly-accessible registries as young as fourteen. 

 

"Sexting is treated as child pornography in almost every state, and it catches teens completely off guard because this is a fairly natural and normal thing for them to do," Phillip's attorney, Larry Walters, says.  "Some judges have the good sense and reasonableness to treat this as a social problem, but others are more zealous in their efforts...  I think it's time, as a society, that we step back a little bit and avoid this temptation to lock up our children."

 

It's certainly enough to boggle a parent's mind: the idea that a fourteen-year-old boy living in Pierre, South Dakota, could find himself convicted and registered as a sex offender for most of his adult life - and all for a few images of his girlfriend on his cell phone.  Even more unfortunate still, it looks as though sexting is going to have to take a level of precedence during father-son talks that would otherwise be reserved for the facts of life.  If a fourteen-year-old boy can be charged with a sex offence for something as simple as this, it should be a father's priority to explain to his son how important it is to use his cell phone responsibly before he's even old enough to go to Junior High.

 

Hopefully the law-makers of this country will realize that teenagers who sext each other are not on the same level as rapists and pedophiles.  Until then, it's the responsibility of parents with teenagers to take action, and here's how:

 

1)     Get involved in any legislation that involves downgrading sexting from a felony to a misdemeanor (a step in the right direction that will at the very least keep teens convicted of sexting off the sex offender registry).

 

2)     Write your state's lawmakers and voice your opinion.  Condemn those that fail to recognize sexting as normal teenaged behavior, and raise awareness that state law should have nothing to do with the intimate electronic behavior between two consenting young adults.

 

3)     And, most importantly, TALK to your teen about sexting; don't just let them be blind-sided by state law.  Have a candid conversation about what sexting is, what the laws are, and the consequences.  The majority of teens caught for distribution didn't even know what they were doing was a crime - don't let this be your kid.

 

A father should only have to explain to his son the importance of respecting his girlfriend in the information age, and why it's so important to keep intimate material like this private.  State law, however, forces a father to explain the legal and life-changing consequences of 20th century child pornography laws that overreact to what, in actuality, are the contents of a typical teen's cell phone.  Write lawmakers, get active, talk to your son, and keep legislation like this from ruining his life. 

 

copyright (c) 2011 FatherMag.com

 

About the author:

Jordan Dickie is CEO and Executive Editor of BestWord SEO Copywriting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

 

 

 

 

 

Sexting Is Normal Teen Behavior

by Dawn Hawkins


Sexting is the act of sending nude photos, videos or lewd information via a cell phone. Teenagers are sexting much more often than people believe. Parents are usually capable of handling these situations with their children. It has turned into a legal war that is beyond comprehension though. Poorly worded child sex laws make it easy for over zealous prosecutors to easily obtain charges on a minor for this type of behavior. The prosecution of these young people has turned into an all out war between teenagers and law enforcement.


Sexting on the part of a teenage boy can result in severe punishments. Conviction for sexting offenses means placement on the sex offenders list for most teens. Once placed on the registry, the name stays there for years, sometimes for life. This hardly seems fair for a young person who is behaving as young people do. It is important for fathers to develop an open dialogue with their sons about the sexting subject. Sexting can literally destroy a teen boy's life.


Important cases of teen sexting:


San Bernardino County- Authorities cited four Southern California teenage boys with "sexually exploiting a minor". The four 15-year-old boys posted nude and partially nude pictures on a social networking site of eight of their female schoolmates. Details of the outcome of the trial are not available because the boys are minors. They obtained the photos after the girls photographed themselves and sent the pictures to each other. One of the girls leaked the photos to one of the boys involved. That boy passed the photos around to the other three boys who came up with the idea of uploading the photos to the internet. School administrators stumbled upon the nude photos of the girls when they were seeking information about an unrelated fight. The administrators then turned the information over to investigators.


Most people would agree that the girls should not have taken the photographs, nor should they have shared them with others. The boys, in the same token, should not have uploaded the photos to the internet. Many questions remain though. Questions such as why prosecutors should be involved in such cases. Although the behaviors are unacceptable, it is the parents and the school administrator's job to discipline the teenagers. Is it necessary to place teenagers on the sex offenders list for an act with willing participants? Should teen boys live with a lifetime label of sex offender for behavior in which no forced action occurred on any other party? A guilty verdict may include three years in jail, a $2500 fine and lifetime sex offender listing. That sounds very harsh for a teen prank. One resounding fact makes the entire case reek of prejudice against boys. The teen girls started the entire thing by taking the photos in the first place. Officials did not cite the girls in this case. The boys were the only targets. This case occurred in April of 2010.


Texas- An arrest was made of an eighth grade boy after his football coach found a nude photo of another student on his phone. He spent the night in juvenile detention after the coach turned the information over to police. This teenage boy could spend the rest of his life on a sex offenders list because someone willingly sent him a photo. The sensationalism by the media and the insistence by prosecutors make cases like these stand out in public. The public is not responding quite as expected by both the media and the prosecutors though. The public is beginning to fight back.


Wisconsin- A seventeen-year-old boy found himself in hot water with prosecutors for child pornography. What was his crime? He posted nude photos of his girlfriend online. It was bad judgment on the boy's part. It does not mean that he should spend the rest of his life on a sex offenders list.


These three cases are representative of what is happening in the United States in regards to teenagers willfully sharing suggestive photographs of themselves. Particularly at risk are teenage boys. Prosecutors go full force in pressing charges against these boys. Be aware that it happens to girls as well. Girls do not seem to be the focus of law enforcement officials though.


There are several things that fathers can do to help their sons. The first and most important thing is to know as much as possible about the laws governing sexting. Some school officials believe that it is occurring between about one in every five students. This suggests that it is a routine occurrence between teenagers, whether they are boys or girls. The act of sexting covers a wider area than cell phones though. It also includes uploading such photos and videos on the internet, emailing and social networking.


It is normal for parents of one generation not to understand the behavior of the up and coming generations. Parents, for centuries, have had difficulty in communicating to their teens. Teen behavior is most often out of line with the morals taught by parents. Teenagers often do things purposely go against their parents in order to test the waters. The values that parents taught children when they were small seem to disappear for a while. They have a tendency to return to those values in adulthood. It is between the ages of twelve and eighteen that are often the hardest for parents to deal with. Fathers have to take an active role in parenting their teen sons. It is a father's duty to make sure that his children understand this complicated world.


There seems to be a problem for prosecutors as well. Many people believe that the laws governing sexting are too strict on normal teen behavior. There are so many crimes that the police need to work on, but in light of so many of these unreasonable arrests on teen boys (and girls for that matter), it makes the world wonder if they really do have anything better to do. It is important for fathers to stand up to the legal system alongside of their sons. It is important that teenagers understand that there is a difference between consensual and forced contact. It is a father's duty, which is to make sure their sons have the information they need to make sound decisions. That is not the job of the prosecutors, the newspapers or the lawmakers.


Sensationalism of the matters at hand has not helped matters. People read a newspaper article about a certain situation where a teen is accused of child sex abuse. Many of those people only see the words "accused of child sex abuse" and read no further. Even when they do continue to read the story, those words stay in the mind. Once the thought is in the mind, people are very unforgiving and sometimes tend to make the story out to be much worse than it actually is. This type of things is happening to teens throughout the United States today.


How fathers can teach teen sons about sexting:


Cell phone service- Most teenagers have a cell phone today and most phones have cameras and video recorders built in. This is also the case with gadgets like the Apple IPod. Before allowing a teen boy to have a cell phone, have an in-depth discussion about the improper use of the phone. For instance, fathers should be sure their sons know that sexting could result in a fine, jail time, suspension/expulsion from school and placement on a sex offenders list. The latter can result in a lifetime of problems.


Fathers should teach their sons that any texts he gets with nude photos or videos must be immediately erased from the phone. 


If arrested under these ridiculous circumstances, the last thing that a father should do is take it lying down. Fathers cannot allow their sons to be branded for life for an act that was consensual. Remember the difference in the words consensual and forced. Having a photograph on a cell phone that someone else sent should not be punishable by law. The media should not over sensationalize the sexting problem either. When the prosecutors and media play these roles, they play with the future of teenagers lives. That is unacceptable. Many parents are fighting back. One girl is fighting back so hard that the case has been brought to the U.S. Appeals Court. Parents want their rights back as parents and teens just want to be teenagers again without worrying that they will be labeled as sex offenders for taking nude photos of themselves. Even if a teenager takes a nude photo of himself and never sends it to anyone, he could be charged under child pornography laws. Many people find it unclear how branding a teenager for life for a slip in judgment as a minor is protecting them. The Supreme Court may have to answer that question. If prosecutors and newspapers continue to brand these teens, the fight can only get uglier. One thing prosecutors and newspapers should be able to count on is that fathers are not going to continue to roll over for these senseless prosecutions.



copyright (c) 2011 FatherMag.com


About the author

Thumbnail image for dawnhelium_1295445575.jpg


Dawn is a freelance writer who resides in Maryland. She writes for several knowledge based websites as well as FatherMag.com. She left her full-time accounting career in order to fulfill her dream to write and work from home.



by Simoné Streck


The number of registered juvenile sex offenders is on the rise, particularly in the case of boys, and, in what seems to be a disturbing turn of events, the laws designed to protect children are causing more trouble than they are worth. While it seems obvious that young boys guilty of sexual violence against others should be punished, the long arm of the law is reaching out to scratch an invisible itch reaching much further than these crimes.


There appears to be a noticeable trend in the number of overzealous prosecutors who are ready to register almost any sexually curious young boy as a juvenile sex offender. In many cases they claim to be "teaching the children a lesson," but is this really true? Once a young boy is forced to register as a juvenile sex offender it remains on their record for the rest of his life. Even when the charges are dropped, a boy's life will never be the same. He will forever be labeled as "sexually aggressive." Quite naturally, there is some doubt as to whether this form of punishment offers any type of solution. Instead of fostering an environment in which lessons are learned and mistakes are rectified, the legal system is creating even bigger problems for these boys and their families.


Most people are in agreement about conviction and punishment for sexually violent acts such as rape. However, we are left to wonder why a 10 year old, diagnosed as mentally retarded, receives the same treatment for rubbing up against an 8 year old girl. The latter case refers to 16 year old J.G. of New Jersey who is being charged with a juvenile sex offense for the so-called "crime" he committed when he was 10 years of age. His actions were wrong but is it really fair to call it a "sexually criminal act"? A lengthy article on the Citizens for Change, America website offers a detailed expose of the story. Both the young boy and girl were found in their underwear and there was no evidence of penetration. According to the report, J.G. referred to his actions as "kissing."


On the same website an even more shocking media scandal is laid out for the world to see. A 3 year old boy was charged with juvenile sexual misconduct. He was arrested and booked at an age where he is barely able to tell the difference between his knee and his elbow. His crime? Brace yourselves for a truly heinous crime: taking a curious peek under the back of a woman's dress. According to the stringent new juvenile sex offense laws, a tiny tot taking a naughty look at a woman's bottom is as dangerous as a serial rapist. If the toddler is convicted, he will face a lifetime registration as a criminal sex offender. Prosecutors may need to wait a few years until he is old enough to scrawl a signature, but they obviously take their high paying jobs very seriously and are more than willing to wait.


Perhaps a little closer to home for parents would be the news that "sexting" can now be identified as a criminal offense. Hormonal pre- and post-pubescent teens all over the nation have developed the habit of sending nude photographs of themselves to their peers via the internet or even via their cell phones. They think they are being naughty, flirty and adventurous. However, they probably do not know that "sexting" can be now be equated with classified child pornography. Felony obscenity charges are running rampant through high schools and colleges across America. Prosecutors are only too happy to mar the reputations of these juveniles while the media laps it up and turns out horrific front page stories that have these young teens on the border of suicide.


Human sexuality is not a cut and dry topic. In the case of the 3 year old boy and the hormonal teenagers mentioned above, basic curiosity is turned into scandalous sex tales. Prosecutors and media representatives would have us believe they are only looking out for the best interests of the community at large. Unfortunately, it seems more likely is that the sex related cash camel is simply too tempting to resist.


According to Phil Rich of Selfhelpmagazine.com, sexual play and development are natural biological processes in children. Babies and toddlers have a tendency to touch and rub their own genitals, and despite the fact that parents will swat their tiny fingers away there is no denying that this basic curiosity is present from an early age. Children aged 5 to 7 are more curious about how certain body parts function. These young children also begin to form ideas about love and affection, and this behavior continues well past the age of 10. Pre-teens between the ages of 10 and 12 are more concerned with the development of social relationships and generally begin to experience slightly more sexual feelings. Touching and fondling of genitalia happens throughout childhood and after the age of about 13 this develops into more frequent masturbation.


Information regarding a child's sexual development tends to make parents squeamish. This is only natural. Parents often don't want to think of their child in this light, but in the face of the new juvenile sex offender laws there is only one solution. In the words of your children, "Get over it." The advent of technology has brought sex and sexuality further into the open, which is why the "sexting" phenomenon (among others) is so common. Fighting the laws can take years, so the only real solution is to take preventative measures. The only way to protect your children is to be completely open and honest with them.


A parent's job is never done. When your teen's first relationship starts to get into the heavy petting stages, it most definitely is not time to bow out gracefully. This is where things get tricky. As a father, adopting a "boys will be boys" attitude simply is not good enough anymore. Your responsibility is to distinguish between age appropriate sexual behavior and the kind of sexual blooper that could land your son on the Sex Offence Register.


Any form of sexual aggression is a clear cut no-no and psychological evaluation or counseling will need to be sought. For everything else, from kissing to heavy petting to intercourse, your best bet is to warn your child of the consequences. Unfortunately, teen pregnancy and STIs are only the tip of the iceberg. Your child already knows about all of these. What your child might not know is that he could face criminal charges and a lifetime of humiliation, school transfers and job rejection.


The most obvious solution to the problem is abstinence. However, we do not live in a world where our children are soulless automatons. As much as you would like to say it, "You can't have sex until you're married," is probably the worst way to go about setting boundaries. Set proper rules, but if the teen is to respect your judgment then you must be realistic. You were a teenager once too so hypocrisy will not get you very far. Make sure that your child knows to be respectful to their partner, and to be discreet as well. Make sure that your child is aware of the juvenile sex offense laws and the dangers of violating them. In the end it is up to the teen because you simply can't watch them every minute.


In order to successfully combat the way in which these laws are affecting juveniles, parents need to band together. It may seem strange, and you are most certainly going to find yourself in unfamiliar territory but something must be done. When these newspaper reports pop up, offering the families support is something that you can and should do. Imagine for a moment that your son is in on the scandalous front page, would you not want the support of your community? 


Unfortunately, there are many "what-ifs" at this stage. There is no guarantee that an innocent child will be able to slide under the prosecutors' radar. As a parent, your only hope is to set aside your discomfort and begin to educate your child at an early age. As a father, you know that young boys often act out on curiosity about forbidden topics. No subject matter should be taboo. Provide your son with the information he needs to stay out of trouble.


copyright (c) 2011, FatherMag.com


References:


  • cfcamerica.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=370:10-year-old-charged-with-sexual-assault-for-rubbing-up-against-an-8-year-old-while-they-both-were-in-their-underwear-comments-please&catid=3:news&Itemid=40


  • cfcamerica.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=337:boy-3-years-old-charged-with-sex-crime&catid=3:news&Itemid=493


  • selfhelpmagazine.com/article/child_sexual_behavior



About the author:

Simone.jpg

In her final year of a Bachelor of Arts Degree, majoring in English Literature and Linguistic, Simoné is a young writer armed with strong opinions and a vivid imagination. When her nose is not buried in a book, she is planted firmly behind her keyboard tackling topics ranging from cookery to music reviews and everything in between.