Should a Child be Charged With Child Pornography?

One thing about Teacher’s Convention is the opportunity to catch up with former colleagues and to meet new colleagues who work outside your district.  Usually the conversations are about how things are going at each other’s schools.  One conversation in particular left me with a lot of questions and very few answers.

This teacher found herself dealing with a situation that is, unfortunately, becoming all too common in our society today.  How it is being dealt with is, unfortunately, haphazard and inconsistent.

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CC Public Domain v.4 Flickr, Laura Crossett

 

A young teenage boy, 13-14 years old, sets up an anonymous instant messaging account and sends a request for a naked picture to a young teenage girl who is also 13-14 years old. Young girl willingly complies and sends a topless selfie that self-destructs after 2-3 seconds. Young teenage boy asks for another one.  Young teenage girl complies again, only this time young teenage boy is ready.  He screen captures the selfie before it disappears.  He asks for another one and soon he has a couple of pictures stored on his phone.

And what does he do?  Takes his phone and the pictures to school the next day and shows his friends.  A couple of them ask him to forward the pictures to them.  A couple of them freak out and tell the teacher who must then report it to the principal.  The principal must then talk to the students and, of course, the students’ parents.

When the dust has settled, the teen boy is expelled from school, the teen girl is suspended for three days, another student is also suspended for receiving them on his device.  A couple of others won’t admit to receiving or sending them, and any evidence is floating around cyber-space somewhere.  The parents of the young girl are pressing charges against the boy, and he is facing child pornography charges.

I wonder, though, are these are meaningful consequences?  Do they teach the students anything? Is the young boy really a perpetrator and the young girl a victim?  Or, are there two perpetrators or two victims?   I suspect there are 2 victims, each of their own immaturity.

Is this really child pornography?  Or, is it today’s online version of a young teenage boy finding a Playboy magazine and showing it to his friends?  Does this situation truly warrant charges that will haunt this young boy for the rest of his life?  Or, are the charges being sought by the young girl’s family an attempt to save face?

And, what about the young girl?  She is athletic, earns good grades in school, and is from a good home.  She willingly sent topless selfies of herself to an anonymous account.  What is her responsibility in all this?   Does expelling the boy and pressing charges against him teach this young girl that she is not responsible for her actions?  Where does the responsibility lie?  More importantly, what are meaningful consequences?  Ones that will help teach these children to make better choices.

Incidences like these, unfortunately, are a down side to our instantly connected world. One that our society and justice system has not kept up with.  And neither have many parents.

What do you think?  How should we be dealing with this type of behaviour with our teens?

 

About Sherry Langland

I have been teaching English for 15 years and am passionate about teaching students to read critically, think critically, and live purposefully. I am also the lead teacher for our junior high department and am thankful to be part of such a dedicated group of teachers who are committed to collaborating around the most important part of our job: student learning. My biggest blessing is being the mother of 2 young men who are in their 20s and discovering their purpose.
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