Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
A 14-year-old New Jersey girl who posted nude photos of herself on MySpace has been charged with distributing child pornography, according to the AP. The arrest is just the latest effort by sheriffs and district attorneys across the country to crack down on teenage "sexting"--texting explicit images phone-to-phone or posting them online--using laws that would result in registering convicted teenagers as sex offenders.
Meanwhile, three high school girls in Pennsylvania are fighting back against similar charges. The New York Times reported Thursday that 15-year-old Marissa Miller and her two friends filed a lawsuit in federal court against the district attorney who threatened to charge them with sexual abuse of a minor. Investigators had found waist-up pictures of the girls wearing only bras that had been taken two years ago at a slumber party. The girls said the district attorney's threat was "retaliation" against them asserting their First and Fourth Amendment rights.
As this ongoing story turns into a shouting match between adults, Youth Radio's Ahmina James weighs. She says we should teach "safe sexting" instead of charging teens with adult crimes. Read her article from earlier this month:
Charging teen sexters with child pornography obviously isn't working as a deterrent for the simple fact that we're not afraid of what we don't know about.
It also flies in the face of certain inevitabilities: that sexting is the product of new technologies and that teenagers are full of hormones. Charging teens as sex offenders isn't likely to stop the drive to find innovative ways to communicate, including innovative ways of sexting, anymore than it is likely to end puberty.
The spread of underage porn is a big problem, but sexting itself is just not that serious. And it's not fair to punish us into our adult years - it can take decades to get off a sex offender list - for something so juvenile.
Instead, let's have an awareness campaign about the risks of texting and posting our naked images - safe sexting? Then let's let teenagers be teenagers.
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