Should we criminalise kids for sexting?
A case hit the news last week about a 14 year old boy in the UK who sent a naked photograph of himself to a girl at school. The girl captured the photo and distributed it around her school. Teachers got wind of it, and called the police. The boy now has the crime of making and distributing indecent images recorded against him. He wasn’t arrested or charged, but could have his name stored on a police database for 10 years – and the case could be disclosed to future employers.
So, why are we needlessly criminalising children? Particularly when we know that they’re at an age when their hormones are in but their common sense is not. I don’t want to defend the boy or the girl. But don’t you remember doing silly things before the age of social media?
I work in communications and a colleague and I explored Snapchat as a possible new channel for our content. We sent each other photos and messages to try it out, and I’m not ashamed to say that I sent her a photo of a body part. OK, so it was of my leg in a trainer with the caption Sausage leg (I always ask friends if my legs look like sausages when I go to the gym, and they’re always non commital, which means absolutely that they do). I thought that this colleague wouldn’t be able to show it to anyone else, so I was safe.
I’ve since learned from my son’s girlfriend that you can screen grab a photo from Snapchat or you can get an App that can capture the images you receive. So much for naivety. But haven’t we all done crazy things growing up? Am I the only one who was asked to sit naked on top of a pile of rugs by a rug dealer in Bond Street, or invited to be drawn naked by a teenage boy who was thinking of becoming a priest – to see if he would be capable of a life of chastity????? OK, possibly.
My heart goes out to a poor 17 year old girl I heard of recently who was persuaded to do a strip on Skype. She did it. Her parents found out and, rightly, sent the police to the boy’s door. He wasn’t arrested or put on any database as far as I know, but he got a stern talking to. His parents and his school managed to keep it out of the press. It was a terrible thing to do, but I don’t think this is anything new, it’s just that advances in technology mean it’s not hidden any more.
Should we really be criminalising teenagers? Or is it the only way to stop them using social media in stupid but age old ways?