“Sexting’ teens should be reeducated not criminalised, says NY lawmakers

There have always been bullies in schools and colleges, but the methods they use have evolved along with technology.

Cyber-bullying — using technology such as computers and mobile phones to inflict some kind of hurt or embarrassment to a victim — is a fairly new phenomenon but one that’s set to increase.

“Sexting” is the process of sending sexually suggestive or explicit text messages and pictures via mobile phone. Some may argue it’s not bullying if it occurs between two (supposedly) consenting kids or teens such as a boyfriend and girlfriend, but it’s still illegal.

Even a minor caught sending pornographic images of either themselves or another child or teen could be hauled up on child pornography or sexual predation charges. Most of the time, that isn’t the intended desire of the offender. That’s why New York policymakers want to reform the law to create an “educational reform programme” for those who get into trouble for sexing, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“There are too many kids who are getting themselves into serious trouble for adolescent behavior,” said Alan Maisel, a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn and a co-sponsor of the bill. “I don’t know if they should be tainted with this evil brush for the rest of their lives.”

Such an education programme would let teens know the long-term repercussions of their actions. Despite being tech-savvy, many teens don’t understand that what they do online can stick around for a very long time. A five-minute moment of madness could hurt their future careers and relationships.

Of course, education also needs to begin at home and be reinforced in schools. Simply banning the technology in itself won’t help. Teaching kids how to use that tech responsibly is what’s really needed. More importantly, youngsters must be taught a holistic respect for other people and their privacy, and having the self-respect not to need to share lewd pictures with other people.

What do you think? Should ‘sexting’ involving only minors be considered a crime or are education programmes enough, particularly for initial offences?