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.