"Sext" education for teens

New Jersey mulls education instead of prosecution for kids sending X-rated text messages

Published July 25, 2009 10:01AM (EDT)

New Jersey is following in Vermont's footsteps and considering legislation that would land kids caught "sexting" in a classroom instead of a jail cell. Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampit, who introduced the bill, thinks it's unfair to charge teens with child pornography possession for swapping dirty self-portraits. What they really need, she says, is a lesson in the dangers of high-tech flirtation. If passed, the measure would give prosecutors discretion to send kiddies to a program where they would learn all about the potential consequences -- both legal (e.g., registering as a sex offender) and personal (e.g., the whole school becomes familiar with your intimate geography).

I have to say I'm a bit skeptical about the usefulness of these scare-you-straight classes. It's a little reminiscent of traffic school and other kinds of educational punishments that have a reputation for being heavier on the punishment and lighter on the actual education. There are two other bills pending in the state, though, that focus on educating kids before they start "sexting" up a storm. Unfortunately, both sound rather ineffective: One would have schools provide information each year about the dangers of sharing dirty pics, while the other would require cellphone companies to hand out educational brochures to customers. If we really cared about educating kids about the dangers of "sexting," why not instead incorporate these discussions into ongoing sex-ed classes, rather than an annual lecture or handout?

Considering the political contentiousness of sex-ed curricula, I suppose that's rather Pollyanna of me to suggest. One thing is for sure: This is a far preferable approach than criminalizing normal, hormonal teenagers.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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