We all know that teenagers can do some monumentally idiotic stuff, but now you can add “100-teen strong sexting rings” to your list of fears, somewhere between vodka soaked tampons and condom snorting. All facetiousness aside, sexting is actually something I simultaneously worry about and pretend my kid won’t ever do, because while it’s pretty unlikely that your teenager will become entwined in the dark world of smarties smoking, it’s estimated that about one in five teens will snap a picture of their naughty bits to share.
That’s pretty much exactly what happened in Louisa county, Virginia, where 100 teens were involved in a sexting ring that spanned five neighboring counties and uncovered over a thousand photos and videos of nude or semi-nude teenagers, most of them girls. Over 20 cellphones were seized, and an investigation is under way to determine how much of the sharing was consensual.
What’s different about this case is that rather than turning a bunch of idiot teens into sex offenders, the Louisa school district and sheriff’s office is attempting to educate them instead. The Louisa County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy Donald Lowe told the AP that,
“We said from the beginning that we’re not going to label everyone who participated in this a sex offender…it would be counterproductive to do that. There’s no reason to destroy people’s lives and careers over this.”
I have to admit that I have mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, if I were brought up on criminal charges for all of the stupid–and yes, sometimes illegal–stuff that I did as a teenager, I would be massively screwed. So I’m okay with consensual sexters not being labelled sex offenders before their brains are developed enough to realize that dick pics are a dumb idea.
On the other hand, a lot of sexting spreads non-consensually, with some hormone-addled girl sending her hormone-addled boyfriend a nudie, which he then shares with a bunch of his hormone-addled friends. But instead of focusing on the whole, “Hey, maybe don’t spread around private pictures because that’s four kinds of messed up”, they’re focusing on the girls, reminding them to not take pictures in the first place, because if you do you’re basically saying you don’t mind if everyone sees them.
I get that. I plan on buying my daughter one of those cellphones you can purchase from the back of Parade magazine, so natch I don’t have to worry about her texting racy pics to anyone, but just in case, I’ll probably tell her how not worth it it is to send cleavage shots to some rando from homeroom.
But considering that Virginia criminalized revenge porn in February, and that non-consensual sharers can be prosecuted, doesn’t it make sense to drive that home, too? I guess I’m just saying that if I caught my daughter participating in some prolific Roman-style orgiastic sexting ring, there would be serious consequences. I would want to know that if some skeever shared her pics around without her permission, he would face them too.