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!”

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

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Marcus Carab (profile) says:


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.

aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile) says:

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.

John (profile) says:

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?

Alyssa says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?”


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

“Vary well, all children will go to jail!”

a-dub (profile) says:

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.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: 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?

Ryan says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

CommonSense (profile) says:

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.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

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”

a-dub (profile) says:

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…

Billky says:

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.

death-by-geese (profile) says:

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………


jonny says:

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.

Chris in Utah (profile) says:

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.

Robert Ring (profile) says:

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.

:) says:

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.

brookeOB1 (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.)

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