The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reports that 18 percent of 800 youths aged 14-17 with cellphones reported receiving "sexually suggestive" nude or semi-nude images of someone they know. I suspect the number understates the extent of sexually charged horseplay on cell phones among the nation's youth. But tell me, truly, do you really think each and everyone of these kids is a criminal, or even a sex offender?
Sending a sexually suggestive picture of a minor over the Internet is a crime. The practice of sexting can land you in a federal prison. It can also put you behind state bars. And because sexting is a sex offense, you'll be required to register as a sex offender.
Oh, what I tangled web we are weaving with these silly laws.
My home state, Connecticut, is is guilty of this silliness as the next. But there is a ray of hope on the horizon. In the current session of the General Assembly, lawmakers have proposed legislation to transform sexting from a felony to a class A misdemeanor. It is a small step in a journey that really should end with decriminalization of curiosity and adolescent tomfoolery.
Two Republican lawmakers from Naugatuck are pressing for a law lessen the penalty for sexting between consenting children. State Reps. Rosa Rebimbas and David Labriola propose the measure. Labriola is also a practicing lawyer and a regular in the Brass Valley criminal courts. I am heartened to see him proposing much needed legislation to dampen the hysteria associated with claims of sexual misconduct. The Legislature's Judiciary Committee plans a hearing on the proposal later this term.
It's hard to say where law enforcement stands on the issue. West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci, speaking for the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, said officers use their discretion in dealing with sexting. Officers are trying to protect children from the unforeseen consequences of their actions, he said.
But it is small comfort to leave discretion about whether to charge a crime, whether felony or misdemeanor, in the hands of a cop. What such discretion typically means is that the cop's kids and his friends get a pass. Those who are unpopular or unconnected stand a greater chance of falling on the wrong side of police discretion.
I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but why stop at lessening the penalties associated with sexting between consenting minors. Why not decriminalize it altoghter. It shouldn't be a crime to be be curious.