At Public Discourse Mary Graw Leary provides a guide for responding to “sexting,” when children take and send sexually explicit pictures of themselves. A sample:

Before there can be any intelligent discussion about self-produced child pornography, there must be a common understanding of the images in question. First, images properly considered for prosecution are not “borderline” images, but must meet the definition of child pornography. For many jurisdictions, although not all, there is a fairly candid definition of child pornography referencing depictions of sexually explicit conduct that include graphic depictions of sexual activity or lascivious exhibitions of the genitals or pubic areas. Secondly, self-produced child pornography only references situations in which a minor creates the image with no encouragement or coercion from an adult. When there is such pressure, the child is clearly the victim of exploitation or enticement and any consideration of prosecuting the juvenile is misplaced. Finally we need to stop using the term “sexting.” This word was created by the media to sensationalize a serious, multi-faceted problem. Furthermore, the media has used the term to over-generalize and place under one heading such diverse behaviors as one minor sending one picture to a perceived significant other, a minor taking pictures of more than just himself engaged in sexually explicit conduct and distributing them to others, a minor posting such pictures on a web site, an older teen asking (coercing) his or her girlfriend or boyfriend for such pictures, and an adult possessing such pictures. These are all very different behaviors and calling them all “sexting” brings us no closer to understanding their legal and social significance.

Articles by Nathaniel Peters

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