Mark Shurtleff disagrees with 'sexting' study | Buzz Blog

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mark Shurtleff disagrees with 'sexting' study

Posted By on May 29, 2009, 2:13 PM

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Peter Cumming, an associate professor at York University in Toronto, presented a paper to 8,000 researchers in which he argues that sending nude images through text messages is a fairly harmless activity for teens, similar to "playing doctor or spin-the-bottle."

But Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was quick to disagree; he firmly believes that 'sexting' and teens sending nude images of themselves and others to each other constitutes child pornography.

"Children playing doctor or spin-the-bottle don't risk having millions of people, including child predators, looking at their nude photo from now until the end of time," Shurtleff said. "No matter how the professor spins it, the fact is that minors sending nude photos, images or videos are engaging in the production, manufacture and distribution of child pornography."

I think Shurtleff missed the professor's point. After all, teens who are sexting are doing so with other teens that are around the same age. Certainly an older man participating in sexting with young teens constitutes deviant behavior. But slapping horny teenagers with child pornography charges for behavior that everyone knows should be expected seems a bit excessive. Doesn't that sort of imply that any sexual contact teens have with each other is child rape?

But Shurtleff is adamant.

"We should be teaching our youth the consequences of their behavior, rather than excusing it," Shurtleff said. "Countless ICAC cases involve teens being exploited for the gratification or profit of others. Sexting leaves long-lasting scars."

Shurtleff makes a point--I don't doubt that sexting can leave long-lasting scars, and that there should be consequences when exploitation causes harm to someone. If the photos get exploited by someone who is older, then child pornography charges are understandable. But giving hapless teens that same penalty for normal behavior is pretty ridiculous.

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