No, says the dad of the boy in question. Here’s the story: Boy #1, age 14, had a girlfriend who sent him a nude picture of herself. Then he and the girl broke up and he, repulsively, forwarded the photo to kids at three other schools. It seems that some of the kids who got the photo passed it along again. Let’s call one of those kids Boy #2.
Along with a couple of others, Boy #2 is now facing sex offender charges. His dad believes his son should pay for his cruelty. He has taken away the son’s computer and cell phone service, which had been rewards for good grades and behavior. He also believes his son should do community service and even get charged with a misdemeanor or harassment. But he argues that placement on the sex offender registry means the boy’s future is “gone.” The article continues:
Deputy prosecuting attorney Rick Peters said those charges might sound harsh, but that’s the statute they have to use, “In this case do I think the requirements for the charge itself seem harsh to a layperson? I think it is because I don’t know that this particular type of situation was contemplated by the legislature when they drafted the legislation.”
Which is why we have to change the laws. I agree that sexting is serious — or what I mean is, it’s extremely serious when someone breaks the bonds of trust and makes a private photo public. But does it mean that a teen who did that — or even another teen who stupidly forwards a forward — should be placed on the sex offender registry, which is often for years, or even life? Is he really on par with a career predator?
No. And the more we dilute the registry with cads instead of actual criminals, the more we terrify neighborhoods even as we dilute our crime-fighting resources. The more time police spend monitoring teen sexters, the less time they have left to spend monitoring monsters. In a way it’s parallel to drug offenses: I’d much rather the police crack down on drug peddlers and kingpins than on someone who smokes a joint.
I feel terrible for the girl in this case — outraged — and believe her tormentors deserve punishment. But their punishment should fit the crime of cruelty, not the crime of child rape or the crime of creating child pornography. As we twist the idea of the sex offender registry away from criminals who pose an immediate threat to the neighborhood toward anyone demeaning, or even thoughtless, I’m not sure we make anyone safer. And we may ruin more young lives than we save. — Lenore