Gov. Susana Martinez reluctantly has signed child porn legislation that, incredibly, allows consensual "sexting" by 14-to-18-year-olds to be exempt from prosecution under child abuse laws.
Ironically, the law aims to impose tougher penalties on the producers, distributors and possessors of child pornography--something everyone seems to agree is a good idea.
But on the way to strengthening the penalties, enough legislators were persuaded that teenage sexting--the texting of each other on smart devices sexually explicit pictures of themselves-- ought to be protected from prosecution for this, err, what we are supposed believe is an innocent, harmless and natural act.
Reported New York magazine in an article, "Sext away, Teens of New Mexico,"
"Kids will be kids, and they’re going to make mistakes," the bill's author, state senator George Muñoz, said to the Guardian. "You can’t punish them for the rest of their lifetime with a charge of child pornography … if they’re consensually sending photos back and forth.” You can't stop adolescents from following their hormones, but, concerned New Mexico parents, you can at least start keeping up with sexting app trends.
Martinez, a two-term Republican, was troubled by the provision, yet signed it because she didn't have a line-item veto to yank it out of an otherwise desirable bill.
Thus, giving entirely new meaning to the childhood expression of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
Actually, it's not so funny. This can go awry and damage children--yes, they are still children--in so many ways. And because our culture has slipped into a slime pit, it's probably necessary to list just a few of them: Contributes to sexual addiction. Humiliates children who have later regrets. Enables sleazebag ex-boyfriends to spread damaging pictures of former girlfriends. Encourages promiscuity and teen pregnancy. Increases peer pressure to participate. Encourages bullying.
The Washington Post recently reported "How Colorado teenagers hid a massive nude sexting ring from parents and teachers." In response, the Chicago Tribune editorialized against the legalization of teenage sexting, while acknowledging the practice.
We heard some good advice the other day from Maggie Meier, a theology teacher at Trinity High School in River Forest who visited the Tribune Editorial Board with a group of students.
"Expecting blind obedience to authority doesn't work," Meier said. "We need to explain why the law exists, why it is illegal. We need to explain that we're trying to protect you, not trying to ruin your life. If we don't give them a reason, there's going to be a large percentage of kids who are going to push back, saying the adults just don't want us to have fun."
The thinking in New Mexico and reportedly a growing number of other states is that if parents can't control their children's moral and ethical education, then we might as well let them go hog wild.
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