At work today I had one of those rare occasions when I popped off at the TV for a bit. I’m getting old; I’m entitled to the occasional pop. I don’t know what news channel it was, which makes me think it was CNN. There was a high school boy talking about how for the rest of his life he’d be branded and ranked alongside rapists and other sex offenders, because he sent naked pictures to his girlfriend, who was 15 (he was 16). Then the talking heads came on and spouted their usual “woe is our society” lines and tried to figure out a solution to this problem. All of them agreed that one one thing that needed to be done was to have the schools address this. Also thrown out was the idea of sending parents to jail when their kids get caught doing this. Let me address each of these issues in kind.
First: the boy had a good point. He IS going to be branded the rest of his life because of a stupid law. He’s not a pedophile; you can argue about the morality of what he was doing, but at least it was age-appropriate.
Stick with me here.
He wasn’t 21 and sending dick pics to a 15-year-old; he was essentially the same age as her. That’s age-appropriate porn, not pedophilia. He’s not a pervert, he’s just a kid doing what kids will do, with the technology we now have.
Stick with me a little bit longer.
In high school, I would have qualified as a “good kid”. I received good grades, I had a schedule that prepared me for college, and I worked after school to help support myself. I never got into trouble. However, I also ditched school a LOT my last two years, as much as I could get away with without jeopardizing my grades. I hung out with some shady characters. I never did drugs but I certainly had easy access to them. Like most boys my age, I also was a raging bag of hormones looking for a release. If this technology had been available to me back then and I thought it would in any way increase my chances of seeing a naked woman (or continue seeing a naked woman, if I’d been so lucky) then absolutely I would have used it.
Again, I wasn’t a bad kid, I was just a kid. Therefore, I don’t begrudge kids today doing something I probably would have if I was a kid today. That doesn’t mean I think it’s acceptable or should not be punished; it means that I think we should approach it with some understanding instead of hysteria.
Second: in regards to the schools doing something about this. I understand the thrust, but this isn’t the school’s responsibility. It’s the parent’s. I can see maybe mentioning it as part of the rules of school and expressing that it is forbidden, but anything more than that is too much. Teachers already have too much on their plates without adding this.
Finally, as to sending parents to jail for their kids sexting: no, with a caveat. If there are other areas where the parent(s) are deficient I can certainly see a case, but again we need to start with a little understanding instead of jumping straight to punishment, the more severe the better. I think I can use an analogy in the form of a story to make my point.
On my first deployment in the Navy, my ship was patrolling the coast of Iraq during the first gulf war. We were at sea at one point for 55 days straight, and when we pulled in to port at beautiful Jebel Ali we had what was called “sandbox liberty”. We could get off the boat but all we could do was go to the area around the pier. Said area had a bunch of vendors and the most important destination, the beer tent. My first night out in the sandbox I made the mistake of trying to keep up with the senior electrician on my detachment, and I quickly got hammered. My buddies took me back on board and shoved me in my rack (navy word for bed). A bit later, I got the bed-spins and ended up throwing up in my boss’s bed beneath mine.
I had to drag my drunk ass out of bed, throw away his mattress and sheets, and clean it all up. That was my punishment. If somebody in the Navy did this today, chances are it would be classified as an alcohol-related incident and go up the chain of command, and be a black mark for the individual.
That’s what we’re looking at here. This shouldn’t be something that merits a lifelong punishment. Give people a chance to get their shit together after screwing up, parents included. If they screw up again, tie them to the mast and flog them – metaphorically speaking – but give them a chance to redeem themselves.