Sexting: The new spin-the-bottle?

Speaking at the 78th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Canadian professor Peter Cumming of York University said sexting is just the modern version of “spin the bottle,” Agence France-Presse reports, and the uproar over it is overblown, UPI reports. He said the reaction “is just the modern version of the outrage in the 1950s about the way Elvis Presley moved provocatively on stage.” I agree with the part about how adolescent behavior – and adult reactions to it – haven’t really changed. Two things have changed, though: the presence of the fixed and mobile Internet in the equation and the unprecedented predicament in which child pornography law puts adolescents, the one in which they can be both perpetrator and victim at the same time. That puts police and prosecutors in an extremely difficult predicament as well, and we can only hope that they will apply these laws – which have not caught up with what technology allows sometimes impulsive, sometimes mean, always experimental and risk-assessing adolescents to do – with great care and play more of an educational than a prosecutorial role with sexting cases. I hope they’ll consider statements like that of Professor Cumming thoughtfully, unlike Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who “has attacked [Cumming’s] contention that teenagers should not face child pornography charges for electronically sending nude pictures of themselves to others,” the Deseret News reports. Because the law is extremely unforgiving in these cases, and I suspect that few sexting cases involving minors involve either malicious or criminal intent (I wish an enterprising reporter or researcher could look up all news reports of sexting going back to when it was just called “nude photo-sharing” and report on the motives behind the cases). In a recent sexting case, police in Nampa, ID, were trying to figure out how pictures sent by a freshman to her boyfriend got distributed around their high school, KTVB in Idaho reports. [Here are some of my early posts on naked photo-sharing. See also “Sexting overblown? Yes and No.”]

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