Sunday, April 3, 2016

lessons to be learned from teens charged with child porn felonies

In Bellevue NE, four teens and an adult have been charged with child pornography crimes. The article says the 20-year-old set up "an account online" and then lured a 17-year-old girl to send him sexually explicit photos of herself. The images were then passed around among the four teens.

Definitely nasty behavior, if this is truly what happened. The article gives very few details.

Amie Konwinski, of Smart Girl Style, was interviewed for the story and she has advice for parents.
Konwinski said it's a relatively new story but it's one she's heard before. Konwinski teaches teens and parents about the power of social media. 
"We really need to tell our kids that hey, this is a thing. Predatory sextortion is a possibility, and how easy it is for somebody to create a fake account and ask those girls for those pics," Konwinski said.
Predatory sextortion might be a thing but getting charged with a felony is a thing that might be more likely to happen and will do as much if not more damage to the teens involved. Konwinski ought to be educating teens and their parents about felony charges that can result from what teens see as private behavior.
Konwinski said parents need to have conversations with their children and keep an eye on their social media. She said one way to do this is making sure teens can't download apps without parental permission and to be aware that they may have accounts they don't want the parents to see. 
This is ridiculous advice. Teens using social media for private communication that may include intimate photos--no matter how unwise that is--need to know the dangers involved. They could be arrested, go to prison, and be on the sex offender registry for the rest of their lives.
"Parents need to sit down and say, 'Hey, what's your secret Instagram account?' And see what your kid says. If their eyes get big, you got them there," Konwinski said.
Well, there you go. Now that you know they have a secret account, you got them there. What are you going to do with that information? Parents who do not already know how easily kids can set up accounts without telling Mom and Dad are way behind in the game.

Instead of gotcha questions for teens about secret Instagram accounts, parents must educate kids about how impulsive behavior can be charged as a felony, how easily those crimes can be discovered, and the terrible weight of the punishment that can follow.

Instead of clinging to the belief that child porn always means unspeakable images of toddlers, parents need to tell kids that child porn can include images of teens who are definitely not children. Barring developmental issues, a 17-year-old is not a child.

Instead of teaching them the usual lesson that social media can be used to harm girls, teach them that both boys and girls can be charged with felonies for producing, sending, or receiving images meant only for significant others.

Instead of trying to catch kids at wrong-doing, educate them about how private behavior--exchanging naughty pictures or videos--can land them in serious legal trouble. Tagging kids with a sex offender label will hinder their ability to finish high school, go to college, get a job, raise a family of their own.

Perhaps most important of all, talk to your legislators about how easily kids can be caught up in the criminal justice system and how the laws need to change. Tell them that labeling kids with a label that will affect them for the rest of their lives is a grave injustice that must be righted.

Remember, too, that many families are already living that awful reality. Getting arrested as an adult instead of as a teen does not make the registry a more just punishment.

Tell your legislators that no family deserves to live on the registry. Tell them to abolish the registry.

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