This will make me sound old, but I’m going to say it.
In a million years — in 2 million years — I would never stick a camera down my pants to take a picture.
So I will never get this sexting craze.
I can’t empathize with a teenage girl seeking acceptance by sharing photos of her breasts. I can’t sympathize with a boy hoping to impress his crush with a 10-megapixel shot of his privates.
I’ve never been tempted by it. Nonetheless, I know it’s being done. I also know — and am not surprised — that it now has blurred the line between teenage relationships and sexual predators.
This shocking discovery is raising eyebrows around the country, and at two local high school communities in Michigan, Romeo and Rochester, where dozens of students apparently have shared sexually suggestive photos of classmates with one another.
No doubt, most thought they were just having fun. They now discover that police are investigating them, because, under existing laws, if tried as adults, they could be looking at 4 to 20 years in prison.
Not so funny anymore, is it?
A photo can last a lifetime
Here’s what many people don’t understand. Laws don’t move as fast as 4G. The governing legislation for sexting in many states is whatever is on the books for pedophiles or child pornographers. In some states, if you are underage, you technically can be guilty of breaking the law by sending a nude photo of yourself.
So the kids in Romeo and Rochester, who allegedly were sharing a large number of digital photos of fellow teens, may find themselves in jail.
And if any of them are over 18, it could be for a while.
Now maybe you say, “Well, if they’re over 18, they deserve severe punishment.” But consider this. A high school senior, who just turned 18, is dating a junior who is just shy of her 16th birthday. They exchange naked photos.
He could go to prison. And be marked as a sexual predator for the rest of his life.
An attorney, Shannon Smith, representing two of the kids in the local cases told the Free Press last week that police were notified “because some of the boys were collecting photos.”
“They were asking girls to text them nude photos,” she said. “The girls were cooperating and then the boys were trading the pictures — giving them to other people. … It just got out of control.”
Helping to contribute to this problem is Snapchat, a hot app that allows you to instantly send photos with the promise that they disappear from the receiver’s phone — and the Snapchat servers — after whatever short duration you choose. So kids taking nude selfies think, “No problem, I’ll send it and it’ll be gone in a flash.”
Wrong. There are now apps that allow you to capture Snapchat photos. And simply by sending the photos, the sender could be breaking the law.
The influences of society
A larger issue is why this is happening. I know one reason. Just look around. TV shows, music videos, even video games display young people — particularly girls — so sexed up, their images could light a match. Famous-for-being-famous stars like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton achieved their celebrity thanks to sex tapes. In the recent scandal over hijacked iCloud photos, actors and sports stars were revealed to be sharing nude photos regularly. Actress Jennifer Lawrence defended sending sexy nudes by telling Vanity Fair “either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.”
If Lawrence, a beautiful, highly successful woman, is saying that, what’s a high school sophomore going to think?
We also should consider that some high school kids may find sending a nude photo preferable to actual human contact. Think about it. When we were in school, the most important thing wasn’t actually being experienced; it was having other kids think you were experienced.
I doubt much has changed. Perhaps by appearing so flippant about passing around nudie shots, kids get their friends to think of them the way they want — without having to actually do anything.
This is disturbing as well. I recently saw a new movie called “Men, Women and Children” in which a teenage boy is so deep into perverse Web pornography, he can’t perform normally with a girl his age.
Don’t think we’re not headed there.
What’s the solution? I would say stop living on the Internet, but it’s too late for that, isn’t it? At the very least, law enforcement should be making regular visits to educate high schoolers on what is and isn’t legal.
After all, I may not do it. You may not do it. But this is still a shared world, these are still our children and their future is looking very blurry, even as every photo is sharper than ever.