This Is How 8th Graders Could Become Registered Sex Offenders

by
Cierra Bailey
Young teens may be charged with child pornography and required to register as sex offenders for their involvement in a Colorado sexting scandal.

Amid this technology driven era we’ve seen the rise of “sexting” which involves the exchange of nude and/or sexually suggestive images and messages.

Sexting has become a heavily debated issue as scandalous photos have ended up on the Internet and have been used to shame women and men alike. These same issues are also affecting children but one state plans to take drastic measures against youth who participate in sexting.

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In Colorado, a group of teens including some in high school and some in eighth grade may be charged as sex offenders for child pornography for their involvement in a recent sexting incident, Mic reports.

The social media accounts of students from three junior high and high schools have been linked to a series of nude photos being passed around.

The punishment on the table is steep — a child pornography offense is a felony and those charged would have to register as sex offenders. The charge could even remain on their records for a lifetime.

Some lawmakers have reportedly tried to lessen the charge for minors to “misdemeanor or petty offense” but faced rejection from the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee.

"While we hope parents and schools are educating kids about the risks of [sexting], about the risks of where pictures could end up and the fact that they might exist on the internet forever, we don't want it to be criminalized at that level," Jennifer Eyl, the director of family stability programs at the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, said, according to the Washington Post.

The bill that established child pornography charges for young sexters was drafted after a major sexting scandal at Canon City High School that involved several students and led to a victim becoming suicidal.

There’s no denying that sexting is dangerous and can be extremely harmful if messages and photos end up in the wrong hands, but to place an everlasting stain on kids’ criminal records is far too aggressive.

Republican lawmaker Yeulin Willet argues that anything less than a misdemeanor, such as a juvenile petty offense, accounts legally for “virtually no crime at all” and “basically just takes that juvenile into some counseling or education, end of story.”

The problem with Willet’s logic is that it implies these teens should be criminalized rather than counseled and educated. These are misbehaving teens who probably don’t even fully grasp the severity of sexting.

Tarnishing their records and charging them with a felony is far less likely to teach them anything about what they’ve done and why it is wrong. Those punishments are also likely to disproportionately affect youth who do not have family or parental support.

Thus far, no charges have been filed against the students involved in the most recent case but depending on how the ordeal unfolds, it could send a very negative message to the youth of Colorado.  

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Banner Photo Credit: Flickr user Jhaymesisviphotography

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