Indiana Senators Rush To Put In Place Sexting Law When They Clearly Don't Understand Sexting

from the moral-panics! dept

One of the more recent "moral panics" that we've seen is around this concept of "sexting," where people (often youngsters who might not fully recognize the consequences of what they're doing) send either naked or at least revealing images of themselves to others. In the last year or so the press has written about it quite a bit, and while it seems like it's really just a situation that requires more education for kids to recognize what a bad idea this is, once you get a moral panic going, it's never long before politicians feel the need to "help deal with" the issue, "for the children," of course. Mark sends in the news that some politicians in Indiana have decided to tackle the issue with new legislation, though it's not at all clear that the state Senators debating the subject even understand what sexting means:
"Until some terrible tragedy happens where a child or teenager commits suicide because they have been bullied by e-mail, texting or sexting," said Rep. Sandra Blanton.
Bullied by sexting will lead to suicide? How? And how do you create a law to prevent that? Then there's the politician who wants to ban mobile phones in schools to deal with this issue:
"Keep them in lockers and not allow them in the classroom or on school property to do the sexting," Rep. Blanton said.
Really? The sexting happens on school property? If that's the case, then wouldn't the issue be public nudity -- for which I would imagine there are already laws -- rather than "sexting"? If he just means that the sending of these photos continues on school property, I'm not really sure how keeping the phones in lockers fixes anything. It just means those messages will be sent after school when there's even less supervision of what the kids are doing. I guess that's the head-in-the-sand approach to dealing with things, but I'm not sure how it helps any.

Certainly the issue of sexting is one worth educating kids about, so they recognize the dangers of passing on such photos which can quickly multiply and be spread further in amazingly embarrassing ways. But I don't see how any law helps the issue at all -- but plenty of ways laws can make things worse -- especially when the politicians writing and voting on the laws don't even seem to understand what the issue is beyond "sexting = bad!"


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 11:26am

    "Abuse"

    The abuse thing is just poorly phrased - I believe what they are referring to is the abuse that can follow a foolish "sext", when kids start to pass pictures around and be jerks about it. There are a couple of cases where this has been blamed for suicide.

    Not that I'm defending the law at all - situations where this did have something to do with suicide seem no different from any of the stories about a kid who lets something spin way out of control until they feel like there is no way out. It's a tragedy, but it's not new.

    In Canada there are plans to tackle this with an education campaign for grade seven students. As usual, it's not a bad idea in principle but the specifics seem terribly misguided. I wrote a bit more on this on my blog, for those interested in how we are approaching this north of the border.

     

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  2.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 11:30am

    There is a simple answer

    Ban children. If we ban everyone from being under the age of 18, there will be no more children to protect. The other way to go about it is to ban parents. If we can ban people from being parents entirely then we wouldn't have to worry about them not doing their job.

    There is no better way to protect children than to keep them from existing. Once they don't exist, nothing can hurt them.

     

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  3.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:17pm

    Bah!

    Just make suicide illegal--and arrest anybody who commits suicide. Problem solved.
    : P

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:23pm

    Obviously, if the ISPs can magically differentiate between lawful vs unlawful transmission of content, the mobile carriers should likewise be able to differentiate between nude and non-nude photos.

     

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  5.  
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    jilocasin, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:25pm

    I believe suicide is already illegal

    Um, I believe that suicide is already illegal. In fact it's probably one of the only laws that, if you succeed in committing it, they can't really arrest you for it.

     

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  6.  
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    Kevin (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    Is it an election year?

    "Save the children" from what? themselves? How is prosecution going to do anything? Banning a piece of technology which most people now consider mandatory (cell phones) is not going to do anything but make people mad.

     

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  7.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Bah!

    No, make linking to content about suicide illegal. If no one links to the content the kids won't know how to commit suicide.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:40pm

    You realize that our kids are going to revolt against the system and take even more naked photos sending them all around the world.

    Im surprised there isent a twitter group just for this yet.

    "We must stop sexting!"

    "How many kids are doing it?"

    "ALL OF THEM!"

    (stupid people)"we must put all child porn makers in jail, its for the children"

    "Vary well, all children will go to jail!"

     

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  9.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re: Bah!

    Perfect! Then, only the clever ones will manage to off themselves--thereby only leaving dull-witted, possibly suicidal persons to become tax-paying adults.

    The plan is fool-proof.

     

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  10.  
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    known coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:45pm

    the linking article

    is poorly written. i think the idea is to have a child porn charge, that does not make the kid a sex offender for life.

    Still teen sex is what teens do best.

     

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  11.  
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    a-dub (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    Education is truly the only answer to dealing with sexting. Young people must learn that you never ever take a nude photo of yourself without cropping your head out of the picture. Also, remove any identifying material...rings, watches, and items in the photos background. Another point worth mentioning is that you should make the photo as tasteful as possible...you must always leave something to the imagination. Be mindful of proper lighting and refrain from taking photos of yourself in the mirror...thats just a bit tacky.

     

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  12.  
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    DS, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 12:58pm

    This thread is useless without pics.

     

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  13.  
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    Ryan, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:02pm

    Business as Usual

    Indiana Senators Rush To Put In Place Sexting Law When They Clearly Don't Understand Sexting

    I honestly cannot remember the last time I heard of a law being meticulously contemplated or the issue even vaguely understood by a politician attempting to control it. Often they do not even know the text of the law they're passing.

    I'm so glad my fellow constituents vote to force me to give my tax dollars to politicians so they can control my life better than myself in all their wisdom and unselfishness...

     

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  14.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re:

    And we got to teach these kids to use a real camera. As high resolution as some of these phones are getting (the Nexus has a 5Mp camera and rumors are the next iPhone will too), they still can't hold a candle to a real digital camera. Plus with real cameras you can use a tripod and the timer function.

    Witch begs the question; why are these people freaked out about cell phones when digital cameras are cheaper, easier, and better?

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    From Indiana

    I have lived in Indaina my entire life. We have a part time legislature. Therefore, they do this sort of thing when they don't have important things to work on. You would never see this kind of bill if the Indiana economy was struggling. Or, if healthcare was a problem. Or, if unemployment was an issue. They only bring these kind of bills up when they get bored.

     

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  16.  
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    mike, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Look on the bright side

    Kids are gonna do what kids do. Remember the time when there was no cell phones to "sext" with, I did not stop any one under the age of 18 from seeing each other nude. We just got to see it in person.

     

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  17.  
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    mike, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:20pm

    forgot at a letter

    Kids are gonna do what kids do. Remember the time when there was no cell phones to "sext" with, It did not stop any one under the age of 18 from seeing each other nude. We just got to see it in person

    FORGOT A "T"

     

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  18.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:26pm

    Remember

    Indiana is the state that nearly passed the "pi bill" - no level of stupidity should surprise you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Pi_Bill

     

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  19.  
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    lavi d (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:26pm

    Slogan

    "Indiana. The sexting stops here"

     

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  20.  
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    Thomas (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    Re: I believe suicide is already illegal

    In the middle ages, attempted suicide was a crime, punishable by death. (no logic of course)

    I have a feeling that politicians have no clue of the real world. The schools around here already have a policy of no cell phones in the classrooms.

     

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  21.  
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    Thomas (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    Re: From Indiana

    Politicians would much prefer to pass stupid laws that can't be enforced rather than try to tackle real issues.

     

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  22.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:41pm

    Re: forgot at a letter

    Thanks for throwing in that letter, I almost didn't understand your post without it. :-)

    And seriously though, in person like before cell phones was way better. Not only did we see it in person, if we were quick, we could try to get a feel in too!

    Kids today don't know what they're missing. It may be easier to get to see the goods if you're behind a cell phone, but it's no replacement for the real thing.

     

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  23.  
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    Adam Turetzky (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:49pm

    Is this in response to this case?

    I just read about this today. They've actually charged two teenagers with this law. Ages 12 and 13.

    http://nwitimes.com/news/local/porter/article_bf8bdbf3-952e-5382-9f2e-6224eefaa3c2.html

     

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  24.  
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    Brian (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Re:

    Because kids can't text or talk on digital cameras and therefor don't want them. Also if it cant be a major distraction when driving then its definitely not worth having.

     

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  25.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 1:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Bah!

    Isn't that the perfect taxpayer? They're too stupid to do anything illegal. They don't question authority. They can't kill themselves so they keep on paying taxes.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 2:17pm

    Re:

    Suicide is illegal, but I've never heard of case being successfully brought to court. Something to do with the right to a fair trial and being present in court.

     

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  27.  
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    Scott, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Is this in response to this case?

    The law hasn't been passed yet. The two teenagers in the article are charged with possession of child pornography and child exploitation. Those laws have been around for a long time.

     

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  28.  
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    a-dub (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 2:41pm

    In reference to the two teenagers...child pornography should not even enter into the discussion. The worst that should happen to these kids is to inform their parents and give them some information pamphlets on whatever. Instead, they decided to let the juvenile courts handle it. How insane is that? This is nothing more than a modern technology version of "Ill show you mine if you show me yours"...except now you get to go to juvi where the REAL bad kids will show you much worse. Im speechless...

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    John, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    Re: There is a simple answer

    That's PERFECT! Great solution, I wish only that I'd thought of it first.

    Now....since I already have six kids between two marriages....how do I get rid of the one's I have???? Should I convince them 'sexting' is a good idea....so they'll be forced to commit suicide? I mean, that's the point of the Rep from Indiana right?

     

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  30.  
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    nasch (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Re: forgot at a letter

    What makes you think they're missing anything? Seems more likely sexting is a supplement to the real thing, not a replacement.

     

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  31.  
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    Billky, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:17pm

    The New Sexting Law!

    Mr. Masnick, it is very clear that either you do not understand the need for a sexting law or you understand it completely and are trying to mislead people to block the new law. Under our current laws when kids under 18 possess and or send nude/seminude photos of someone under 18, it is classified as child pornography. The "moral panics" you refer to are not about sexting, it's about the punishment the kids will receive for sexting. In Indiana as most states there is one law and set of punishments for child porn. In Indiana it's up to 10 years in prison and registration as a child sex offender. That would totally ruin these kids for rest of their lives. The new law would reduce the penalities for sexting for juveniles. Most studies show about 25% of teens sext. So what do you want to do. Keep the current law which would classify 25% of our kids as felony child sex offenders, or a new law which will not result in no criminal record for the first offense. You are full of criticism for our lawmakers but offer no solutions. Lastly, your statement that creating a new sexting law will not stop sexting, suicide, or bullying is well to be nice-just lost. If any law stopped crime then there would be no crime and it would be a wonderful world.

     

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  32.  
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    death-by-geese (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:21pm

    Then Again.......

    All these laws and stuff... It all comes down to the parents. Maybe they should try to teach thier kids not to show the goods. Maybe the parents should not let thier kids have MMS on thier phones or Texting. Again we did not have cell phones when we were kids. Kids having cell phones is a easy way for parents stay in contact(Well thats the excuse at least). QUIT BEING LAZY PARENTS AND WATCH WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE DOING.........

    P.S. STOP BLAMING THE MEDIA IF YOUR KIDS SETS THE HOUSE ON FIRE. HE PROBABLY GOT THE MATCHES FROM YOU.....WHEN YOU WERE NOT WATCHING ;)

     

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  33.  
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    death-by-geese (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: forgot at a letter

    To nasch.....I never said replace, it was more like if kids want to see each other naked, thier gonna do it with out a cell phone or not.

     

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  34.  
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    jonny, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:36pm

    Bullied by sexting will lead to suicide? How? And how do you create a law to prevent that?

    "Bullied by sexting will lead to suicide? How? And how do you create a law to prevent that?"

    Bullies isn't the right word how about Harassed, intimidated, blackmailed, tortured to name a few.

    Picture yourself a naive young girl eager to make friends finds her self in an awkward coming into womanhood stage. Unknowing that Joe Bob the school jerk who has just woo'ed you into a revealing situation is currently blackberrying the entire student body or worse threatening to do so unless you submit to whatever whim.

    Lets get real people by 12 these kids have guns drugs and condoms. No matter how much you want to wear blinders its ugly out there for a child. Don't forget it.

     

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  35.  
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    another mike (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:43pm

    ironically, I'm reading this on my droid

    Sexting can lead to death? Really? Like, death by snoo-snoo or something? And where can I sign up to be sexted to death.

     

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  36.  
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    mike, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 3:50pm

    what is SNOO-SNOO? it sounds fun.

     

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  37.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Re: Is this in response to this case?

    Missing the point...

    The issue is its middle school students in possession of his/her naughties, which btw; child porn and child exploitation is an adult offense.

    Apparently we hold adults to higher standards for some reason. WTF EVER!

    In the words of a song I remember...

    ... "... yeah the whole world is buy'n"

     

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  38.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 4:29pm

    Getting some perspective.

    Lets see....
    Prime example why child porn & this issue will always exist but we should leave it to the parents not the law.

    Man, couple, woman buys porn. Comes home and hides it. Kids go in to get something and find said porn. Pop in later after parents are gone. Yay!

    Girlfriend wants to see boyfriend's junk but still a virgin and doesn't want to get started and regret it later so ask boyfriend for something sexy. Monkey see monkey do, bit of pun intended.

    Somewhere in between point a to point b we forget sex is natural regardless of age. Only in the last 200 years have we adopted this weird thing where only after 10 years of bleeding and living every month can we actually have children.

    Most people forget 200 years ago you were named at age 10-12 in a ceremony because of mortality rates.

    Most people forget that a young adult starts at the age of 12.

    Most people forget that sex regardless of age will happen.

    We have forgot that regardless of age, is how much we learn from our experiences is the true mark of wisdom.

     

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  39.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 5:02pm

    Re: Getting some perspective.

    There is one society doublespeak that has been adpoted by everybody.

    young adult

    double speak

    teenager


    Thus the need for only one word.
    Orwell 1984 is a manifesto, and this isn't being cynical its just looking at the past 20 years.

     

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  40.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 6:04pm

    Laughter, followed by sadness

    As I read this article, I actually almost laughed out loud at the ridiculously stupid response by the lawmakers. Then I realized they're not stupid; they're just taking advantage of the less intelligent voters and creating a law that makes them (the lawmakers) the heroes of the day.

    Although I guess they *could* just be stupid.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 28th, 2010 @ 8:39pm

    Re: From Indiana

    Therefore, they do this sort of thing when they don't have important things to work on.

    As a fellow resident of IN, allow me to state that they do this even when they DO have important things to work on.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    :), Jan 28th, 2010 @ 9:42pm

    Moral Panics.

    I think this people really cared about the wealth of child's they would think first and foremost on the consequences this would have and they are not light ones.

    It criminalizes and opens the door to stupid people in power to go after anyone they like they could even target that little b"#$%& from the neighbours because he simply don't like the child, it will put enormous stress(financially and socially) on an already stressed out public machine for something that should be viewed as part of the maturing process of youngsters they don't know about sex, they don't know about bad things that happens so they do it, they didn't get humiliated, exposed or have been fired yet because of such things but they will and individuals learn how to deal with those things(at least some of us others don't).

    We are not talking about "rape" here when somebody forces another no matter the age the aggressor should be extracted from society in some manner so he can't cause any harm. We are talking about natural social behaviour that although could be wrong or right it is a problem for citizens to deal with not the government and I think all this attention and this negative light may cause more psychological harm than good.

     

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  43.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jan 29th, 2010 @ 2:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Bah!

    no, but it does actually explain both political parties over the last 30 years... hmmmmmmmmmm

     

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  44.  
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    Brandon, Jan 29th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Re:

    It's from an episode of Futurama where they go to a planet of huge amazon women and the mean get sentenced to death by snoo-snoo, which is sex. They show the skeletons of the last men put to death by snoo-snoo and they have broken hips but huge smiles on their faces. lol Best episode ever!

     

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  45.  
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    Brandon, Jan 29th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re:

    mean=men. What I wouldn't give for an edit button! Or maybe I should learn to click Preview first.

     

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  46.  
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    brookeOB1 (profile), Jan 29th, 2010 @ 8:50am

    Sexting isn't just pictures, and shouldn't be a sex crime

    Mike, I think you're using an incomplete definition of sexting. It isn't just sending pictures; it also includes sexually explicit text messages, and this is RAMPANT on school property.

    And giving prosecutors discretion on how to handle sexting cases--making sure than hormone-fueled teenagers aren't being charged as sex offenders for sexually explicit text messages or pictures--should be state law everywhere. It's absurd that consenting minors with bad judgment should have to be on sex offender registries.

     

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  47.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jan 29th, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re:

    You may have inadvertently hit on a really good point. If Facebook and Picassa can do facial recognition (and it's a fairly good implementation), how long before there -is- a software scanner that can detect nudity? I bet it's being worked on...

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 11th, 2010 @ 6:23am

    Suicide is NOT illegal. In common law it was, but in modern law it is not. Common Law used to punish the family.

    Modern law does not. A suicide attempt does not send you to jail unless it was in a public place (disturbing the peace and/or civility), even then, in court you can give the distress or duress argument (which is a perfectly okay thing to do).

    The law is stupid, yes, as in this "sexting" case which is ridiculous (and just a way to bring more money and further inflate the actual numbers of crime), but suicide is NOT a crime.

    (By the way, I'm from Texas. One of the 'dumbest' states in the nation.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Alyssa, Apr 10th, 2012 @ 9:27pm

    Re: There is a simple answer

    How Does any of what you said make sense??? Ban parents? Ban children?? That's not possible unless you kill every child on the face of the earth and unless soon to be parents get abortions, which is completely wrong. Your statement is offensive and quite dumb. Children are blessings from above. They are not meant to be aborted and killed. And some people actually enjoy being parents! I know it's a hard concept to grasp, since society makes being a parent look and sound like a living nightmare, but it's true. People enjoy being parents! I really hope you think before you post, because this wasnt very well thought through.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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