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Too young to be in pictures

Drudge is linking this story today:

GREENSBURG, Pa. -- Three teenage girls who allegedly sent nude or semi-nude cell phone pictures of themselves, and three male classmates in a Greensburg Salem High School who received them, are charged with child pornography.

Police said the girls are 14 or 15, and the boys charged with receiving the photos are 16 or 17. None are being identified because most criminal cases in Pennsylvania juvenile courts are not public.

"It was a self portrait taken of a juvenile female taking pictures of her body, nude," said Capt. George Seranko of the Greensburg Police Department.

Police said school officials learned of the photos in October. That's when a student was seen using a cell phone during school hours, which violates school rules. The phone was seized, and the photos were found on it, police said. When police investigated, other phones with more pictures were seized.

"Taking nude pictures of yourself, nothing good can come out of it," said Seranko.

Yikes. What they did was stupid, but the legal system is way out of bounds if it seeks to permanently ruin the future lives of these teenagers with child pornography convictions. The amount of humiliation they will suffer as a result of this stunt going public should be sufficient.

Apparently these uninhibited Pennsylvania teens are part of a new phenomenon that includes everyone from the kids next door to Disney teen star Vanessa Hudgens, a disturbing wide-spread trend known as "sexting": do-it-yourself nude photography distributed among teens via cell phones and the Internet.

"If I were to go through the cell phones in this building right now of 1,500 students, I would venture to say that half to two-thirds have indecent photos, either of themselves or somebody else in school," said Jim Brown, school resource officer at Glen Este High School.

Turpin High School Principal Peggy Johnson thinks that the results would be similar - about 50-50 - in her building.

According to the national study, most teens who send sexually suggestive content send to boyfriends or girlfriends, while others say they send such material to those they want to date or hook up with or to someone they only know online.

[...]

When kids are 14 or 15, Brown said, they don't often make the right decisions.

"They think, 'I have the right to decide what's best for me.' The next thing you know, it's on YouTube, and you become an international star because you're exposing part of your body. ... Then, they want to retrieve their good reputation, and they can't."

Kids have lost scholarships and jobs because of what's posted on Web sites, Brown said.

Many kids have "wised up," taking photos of body parts, but not faces, to avoid detection.

And while some teens intend for the suggestive photos to be seen by only one person, they might not think those photos will be forwarded or that something posted on the Internet lives on.

"I don't think it even crosses their mind," Daniel "Woody" Breyer, chief deputy prosecutor in Clermont County, said. "I think that kids are in the moment. What's going to happen today? What are we doing tonight? What are we doing this weekend?"

Why the sudden explosion of home-made porn among teens? Much of it has to do with the volume of Internet-based porn consumed by adults.

Christopher Kraus, director of the Postponing Sexual Involvement program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said that in his 20 years of working in adolescent medicine at the hospital, he's yet to see a teenage trend that does not mirror a larger adult trend.

"Adolescent sexuality is part of normal human development," Kraus said. "Teens are trying to figure out how to express their sexuality appropriately. They are learning, and they are learning from adults."

Kraus, who also is project manager for the Ohio Department of Health's new Guidelines for Sexual Health and Adoption Education, Grades 7-12, said teens are learning how to sort out many sexual messages in the media, including text messages.

Ten years ago (has it really been that long?) teens were experimenting with oral sex because it was the hot new thing (the President did it), and supposedly it didn't threaten one's virginity. It was also touted as a sure-fire way to win a boy's affection, self-esteem be damned. DIY porn seems to be the latest variation on this age-old theme -- how can I get that certain boy or girl to like me? Flirting and passing notes are old-school. Self-shot nudie pics seem to be the level to which teens have sunk in order to attract the opposite sex. Pics are "safe" in that they are free from STD's, but their impact on a young person's life can be devastating when they end up on MySpace or Photobucket and then go "viral" through emails and bulletin board postings.

I'm going to forgo the standard sermon on declining moral standards due to the omnipresence of sexually explicit images in contemporary society and conclude with a sobering thought -- over the years I have become convinced that teenage sexuality will become the next big battlefield of the Sexual Revolution. Teenagers as young as 13 or 14 will be promoted by the culture at large as fair targets for adult sexuality. And the more teenagers sexualize themselves, the easier it will be for adults to say, "see, they're already doing it -- what's the harm"? As a parent, few things frighten me more than this.

As I stated earlier, I don't believe that ruining a teenager's adult life by finding him guilty of a sexual offense is an appropriate way to handle this problem. But we should be leery of outright dismissal of this kind of activity as "normal" and "good clean fun." And we should resist anyone who suggests that this kind of exploitation should be promoted as a "safe alternative" to sexual intercourse.

This kind of behavior can be stopped only if teenagers have been taught a strong ethic about the value of themselves and others, and if they have a clear understanding of what is appropriate and not appropriate to reveal about themselves. Only responsible parents can teach children those things. These days, though, one has to wonder how many adults fail to comprehend them as well.


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Comments (19)

I read about how my old phy... (Below threshold)
John:

I read about how my old physics teacher's house caught fire, and after the subsequent search after the flames were put out, they found child pornography. Would you also agree that he should not have been arrested and convicted because the public embarassment would have been enough?

I ask because this is the dangerous road we are going down. On one hand, should their lives be ruined from resulting convictions or is the law going to allow certain exceptions to possession of child pornography? Once you start making acceptions, when does it stop?

These children are of an age where they know right from wrong, and they should be held accountable. Be it these pictures, or if they robbed a store, vandalized a home, or set the home on fire, yes they all were stupid decisions to make, but they made them, and they should face up to their actions and accept the punishment.

Should have read, "...start... (Below threshold)
John:

Should have read, "...start making exceptions..."

"These children are of an a... (Below threshold)
Gmac:

"These children are of an age where they know right from wrong, and they should be held accountable."

Maybe you haven't seen the draconian laws they've passed to make life a living hell for people convicted of 'sex crimes'? I'm betting not or your cavalier attitude to tossing them to the system would be somewhat more moderated.

I do not in any way condone what a 20 or 40 year old should be held accountable for but you're talking about youngsters that can't comprehend what's about to hit them if those asshats do file charges against them. Is it really in society's interest to make their lives hell before they've even had a chance to start living them?

I think not.

I have to agree with Gmac. ... (Below threshold)

I have to agree with Gmac. A 15 year old should not be expected to have the judgment a 20 year old has. Now that I've said that, the parents of either one should have had the judgment to teach their children better.

My youngest child is 27 and I am grateful for that. However, she had ample opportunity (as did her older sisters) to make mistakes and they all made a few -- none of which got them charged with a crime, but could have.

Drunk driving? Thank goodness for a sober friend and that sober friend's parents who called me.

That's just one example, but it highlights an important issue -- that Hillary wasn't wrong about it taking a village to raise a child.

If everyone but your family in the village is OK with teen sex, you will have a much harder time keeping your teens from engaging in it too. I'd like to not believe it, but peer pressure does play a role.

And now, having said all the above, good parenting is still the best deterrent to dangerous behavior.

That's just downright ridic... (Below threshold)
Ryan:

That's just downright ridiculous, John. You didn't specify what sort of child porn was found at your former teacher's house, but anyone in their right mind should be able to differentiate between a 50-year old man having pictures of underage girls, and a 16-year old boy having a naked picture of his 15-year old girlfriend. Charging these kids with a sex crime, where they would probably have to register as sex offenders, is completely ludicrous.

It's interesting how folks ... (Below threshold)

It's interesting how folks so often assume nudity is always pornographic, don't you think?

Good post. Good discussion... (Below threshold)
Dave Noble:

Good post. Good discussion. Ryan is spot on.

"Teenagers as young as 13 or 14 will be promoted by the culture at large as fair targets for adult sexuality."

If this is ever mainstreamed, it would represent a significant event in the moral decay of our country.

Just one political comment. It was the Republicans desperately seeking to bring down Bill Clinton (whose behavior was admittedly inexcusable) who splashed blow job across our media. And then hypocritically tsk, tsked about it.

"Maybe you haven't seen ... (Below threshold)

"Maybe you haven't seen the draconian laws they've passed to make life a living hell for people convicted of 'sex crimes'?"

Gmac is right. And at the risk of being 'quibbled' with for offering anecdotal evidence, I'm going to do it anyway. A friend of mine, who at age 19, was dating a 17 year old girl. They had consensual sex. The girl's parents found out, pressed charges against him and at age 30 he is still having to visit with and pay a probation officer monthly, register as a sex offender and live in fear that should he offend a female in any way, shape or form he could spend years in prison.

These kids should be punished, but not as sexual deviants endangering the public welfare. Some form of punishment will help them to develop better risk assessment abilities.

"Just one political comm... (Below threshold)

"Just one political comment."

The commentary was not only unnecessary, but didn't make sense either.

One teen passing nude pictu... (Below threshold)
Matt:

One teen passing nude pictures of themselves to another teen should not be criminal. Immoral, yes, criminal no. It is not the same as an adult sexually exploiting a child through pornagraphy or sexual assault.

IMHO, the crime was the school violating the students privacy by searching the cell phone. One should have reasonable expectations of privacy of electronic devices, even at school. I do not belive persons under age 18 don't have civil rights. I do not believe students in public school should give up civil rights just to attend. I don't have a problem seizing a phone banned from use (stupid rule if not during class anyhow), but searching it is crossing the line.

I know, I know it's for the safety of the children, the administrators, the teachers, the sanctity of the learning environment, the safety of the children and on and on. Our societies schools are the first place our children are taught to comply with authority, that they really don't have rights, obey mindless rules and regulations.

Hey, I know! Maybe photogra... (Below threshold)

Hey, I know! Maybe photographing teenaged girls in a sexually suggestive manner (*cough*mileycyrus*cough*) is a bad idea! And maybe, just maybe, there is an over-emphasis in our culture on sexiness as a virtue. And perhaps parents should provide better role models for their daughters other than celebrity slattern Britney Spears or that aging turbo-slut Madonna.

I know this all sounds crazy, but there just might be something to it.

OregonMuse,That's ... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:

OregonMuse,

That's just crazy talk right there!

What I don't get is why all these technologically advanced teens don't password protect their phone with a password. IIRC they all have that capability. That way you could at least stall any search of your phone until a parent/lawyer could be contacted.

-syb

One teen passing n... (Below threshold)
One teen passing nude pictures of themselves to another teen should not be criminal. Immoral, yes, criminal no. It is not the same as an adult sexually exploiting a child through pornagraphy or sexual assault.

Exactly right. In a sane world, these dopey teenagers would be taken out and horsewhipped. And the parents should be taken out and horsewhipped, too, for being such monumental failures. And that would be the end of it.

But of course, we don't live in a sane world, we live in a litigious, hyper-legalized country, so pretty much every private act has legal ramifications, which means that instead of a quick, certain solution, this is going to drag on for years, including totally ridiculous convictions for "child porn", as if the boys are 50-year-old perverts.

I'm not saying the boys shouldn't be punished. They should be punished. But they way this is playing out, they're going to be legally defined as "sex offenders" and they'll have to register every place they live for the rest of their lives.

And thus do simple problems become ossified and intractable.

What I don't get i... (Below threshold)
What I don't get is why all these technologically advanced teens don't password protect their phone with a password.

Because they're stupid. In fact, they're so stupid, they pass around nude photos of themselves to each other. That's how stupid they are.

Let's see...the girls sent ... (Below threshold)
Phoenix Rising:

Let's see...the girls sent the sext to the boys, yet it is the boys who are being prosecuted? What kind of sense does that make?

And no, you CANNOT guarantee that your teen daughter (or son) will not participate in such idiocy. We are currently addressing the same problem with a 12 y/o & 14 y/o. Both kids are good, Christian kids who should have known better and made a huge mistake. Should the boy be prosecuted for receiving (and sending) pictures of naughty bits? What about the girl? Do you ruin the lives of the kids just because they are acting in concert with the cultural environment they exist in outside their homes?

And what about the adults who viewed the pictures? You know, the ones who called the police rather than the parents.

For our household, both kids have lost all cell phone, internet, and computer privileges. The boy was physically disciplined by his father with the concurrence of his mother (the two are going through a divorce).

What else should be done? Both sent, and both received. Should criminal charges only be filed against the boy? Why? The girl participated, what makes her less guilty?

By the way, they are still CHILDREN. What they did is what a large number of their classmates do. They just got caught. Using legal sanctions against underage children just because they participated in something that their parents and society at large thinks is reprehensible when the harm they caused was to themselves and not to other people just highlights the stupidity that currently exists in school administration (zero tolerance) and law enforcement.

Go after actual offenders.

OregonMuse,Well, I... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:

OregonMuse,

Well, I managed to get through my teen years without getting caught for 99.99% of my stupidity. Guess I was just lucky...

Oral sex the "new hot thing... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Oral sex the "new hot thing" ten years ago? Um... ever heard of Cleopatra?

Sorry, but Bill Clinton neither invented nor popularized blow jobs--though he might have started some idiotic discussion on the nature of them, and what sort of sexual activity they constitute.

Ten years ago (has it re... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Ten years ago (has it really been that long?) teens were experimenting with oral sex because it was the hot new thing (the President did it)

I love Republican morons who actually believe teenagers weren't interested in oral sex until Bill Clinton came along. It's like saying that people never lied or thieved until politicians showed them how, and it reveals how undeniably stupid you are.

Kids even younger than 15 h... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Kids even younger than 15 have always "played doctor." They even did it in the Ozzie and Harriett 1950s. I know this for a fact (don't ask). The difference is the technology.
Anyone who advocated branding, for life, these kids with the "sex offender" stigma has got to be crazy. Because once you're a "sex offender", it's a life sentence, dude.




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