Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Teens Swapping Nude Pics Lead to Child Pornography Charges

Teens swapping nude pics leads to Child Pornography charges!?! But Who's Really to Blame? Parents? Teens? Phone providers? Or maybe it's all of us...

This is a great article written by a friend of our ministry named Brian Housman.

The issue of teens using their cell phones as the latest way to experiment with their sexuality continues to grow. Some of you will remember that I wrote an article last year for Awake to Life entitled Flirting with the Phone that addressed this issue. I which I could say that things have gotten better since last year but that would be asking for a lot. As with most issues in teen culture, the problem is like a snowball tumbling down a hill. It continues to grow, become more intense, and pick up speed. And sadly, we usually ignore it until its about to collide with those below.Besides sending sexual text messages to one another, it's becoming more common for teens to send sexually oriented photos of themselves to one another. Usually this is done as a form of flirting or foreplay but there have been situations where the photos were send as a form of harassment.

Compound the Problem with More ProblemsLaw enforcement officials in communities all over are feeling overwhelmed by schools and parents wanting them to do something. The solution they've come up with is to arrest the students on felony charges of distributing or receiving child pornography. Just this week in Greenburg, PA three girls and four boys were charged in conjunction with child pornography after the girls sent the boys seminude photos of themselves. Similarly, Newark, OH girl was charged after send sexual photos of herself to a number of classmates. Now I'm no expert on the law but surely we can agree that this is a poor way for any authority to handle the matter. Image you son getting that familiar ring on his cell phone that tells him he has a text message. Only when he opens it there is a nude picture of a classmate sent by the classmate! The next thing he knows the police are handcuffing him for possession of child pornography. Would that be like someone sending you a pipe bomb in the mail and getting arrested for possession of explosives?It's no wonder there is such a distrust from teens toward adults. The people that should be working to protect them only add to the problem (at least in this case).

Addressing the Real IssueIt should break any parents heart to know their teen would find it acceptible and funny to send a flirt photo of themselves to someone else. And that is where the problem lies: with the teen and with the parent. This is not a law enforcement issue. It's a family issue. According to most recent surveys, more than 70% of all teens own a cell phone. I'm not altogether against the idea of a teen having a cell phone. If used the right way it can be a useful communication tool. Herein lies the other problem. The majority of teen cell phone owners were handed their phone with no strings attached. No stated expectations of etiquette. No time restrictions. No boundaries for usage.If the parent has to sign a contract with the cell provider, then why don't parents require their teens to sign a contract with them? It doesn't have to be long or too detailed but a Teen Cell Phone Contract can help put reasonable expectations on your teens for how they should and shouldn't use the cell phone. If you as a parent don't pay the bill, you are in breach of contract and your phone is no longer usable. A Teen Cell Contract helps you keep your teen to the same standard. It's no just you mandating behavior. It's your teen signing off that they agree to do "x,y,z" in order to receive the privilege of using a cell phone.I don't think this is going to solve every case of teens sending flirty messages or sexual pictures. But it does set the bar of what is expected and give you an out as a parent to respond in a calculated way to what was already agreed upon instead of just out of emotion. If you would like to download a sample Teen Cell Phone Contract you can do so at AwaketoLife.org

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