Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

Chapter Three - The Irony of Charging Children with Distribution of Child Pornography


Those who are adjudicated or convicted of child pornography offenses are sexual offenders and often predators…Teenagers who engage in sexting should not face the same legal and moral conundrum.

(Judge Robert L. Steinberg at p.11 in RE: C.S., 2012)

The statute at issue was designed to protect children, but in this case the court has allowed the state to use it against a child in a way that criminalizes conduct that is protected by constitutional right of privacy.

(Judge Padovano, dissenting at para 241 in A.H. v. State of Florida, 2007)


The previous chapter addressed the difficult issues of sexism and misogyny as they are ingrained in contemporary society, or, as they have resurfaced with a vengeance through the uses of digital and social media, which enable (but do not cause) rapid proliferation and perceived anonymity. Chapter 2 also highlighted the perspectives of the participants in the DTL Research that reflected their confusion about the difference between expressions for “fun” and expressions that were intentionally harmful as they thought about how they define the lines between joking or teasing and criminal harassment, threats, and distribution of intimate images. I also presented research findings and theories on moral development, moral disengagement, and empathy that have been conducted in the field of scholarship on bullying. The DTL Research, as analyzed within those theories, confirms developmental differences among children as they grow up, which sometimes prevents them from making thoughtful ethical and empathetic decisions. As I explained in Chapter 2, Digitally Empowered Kids (DE Kids) are influenced by a context in which adult society sends very confusing messages about sex and sexuality, freedom of expression, and privacy through popular culture, news, and film media. Children and teens witness violent models of verbal and physical behavior and communication often perpetrated by adults. It is no wonder kids have difficulty defining the lines between jokes and potentially criminal offenses.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Altobelli, T. (2010). Cyber-Abuse—A New Worldwide Threat to Children’s Rights. Family Court Review, 48(3), 459–481.
Bailey, J. & Hanna, M. (2011). The Gendered Dimensions of Sexting: Assessing the Applicability of Canada’s Child Pornography Provision. Canadian Journal of Women and The Law, 23(2), 405–441.
Bailey, J. & Steeves, V. (2013). Will the Real Digital Girl Please Stand Up? In Koskela, Hille and Wise, Macgregor (Eds.), New Visualities, New Technologies: The New Ecstasy of Communication (pp. 41–66). London: Ashgate Publishing.
Banerjee, S. (2013, November 14). Child porn charges against teenage boys. London Community News. Retrieved November 14, 2013, from .
boyd, d. (2012, March 19). Reflecting on Dharun Ravi’s Conviction. Zephoria. Retrieved from .
Calo, R. M. (2011). The Boundaries of Privacy Harm. Indiana Law Journal, 86 (3), 1131–1162.
CBC News. (2013, November 19). Laval teens’ porn charges are ‘extreme,’ says parent committee chair. CBC News. Retrieved from .
Cook, B. (2013, March 17). Lesson From Steubenville Trial: How Jock Culture Morphs Into Rape Culture. Forbes. Retrieved March 17, 2013, from .
Danay, R. (2010). The Medium is Not the Message: Reconciling Reputation and Free Expression in Cases of Internet Defamation. McGill Law Journal, 56(1), 1–37.
Derfel, A. (2013, November 15). Laval Teens Face Porn Charges. The Gazette. Retrieved November 15, 2013, from .
Dickson, L. (2013, September 18). Vancouver Island ‘sexting’ case sparks challenge over charging youth with child pornography. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from .
Edwards, D. (2013, March 17). CNN grieves that guilty verdict ruined ‘promising’ lives of Steubenville rapists. The Raw Story. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from .
Eltis, K. (2011). The Judicial System in the Digital Age: Revisiting the Relationship between Privacy and Accessibility in the Cyber Context. McGill Law Journal, 56(2), 289–316.
Gifford, N. V. (n/d). Sexting in the U.S.A. The FOSI Report. Retrieved from .
Gunn, J.T. (2006). The Religious Right and the Opposition to U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Emory International Law Review, 111, 119–127.
Judges Need To Learn More About Cyberbullying. (2013, July 13). National Centre Against Bullying. Retrieved July 14, 2013, from
Kimber, S. (2014, January 14). Why are we using child pornography laws to charge children? [Web post comment]. Retrieved from .
Levick, M., & Moon, K. (2009). Prosecuting sexting as child pornography: a critique. Valparaiso University Law Review, 44(4). 1035–1054.
Levitt, R. (2014, April 22). Volunteer coach gets 10 days in Steubenville rape case. CNN. Retrieved from .
Linden, A.M. & Klar, L.N. (Eds.) (1999). Canadian tort law: Cases, notes and materials (11th). Vancouver: Buttersworth Canada Ltd.
Mabrey, V. & Perozzi, D. (2010, April 1). ‘Sexting’: Should Child Pornography Laws Apply? ABC News. Retrieved from .
Macur, J. & Schweber, N. (2012, December 16). Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City. The New York Times (The New York Times Company).
Martin, D. (2011, June 16). One Simple Rule: Why Teens Are Fleeing Facebook. Forbes. Retrieved from .
Mayer, A. (2013, November 21). New cyberbullying law has ‘larger agenda,’ expands police powers. CBC News. Retrieved November 22, 2013, from .
McLaughlin, J. (2010). Crime and Punishment: Teen Sexting in Context. Penn State Law Review, 135–181.
Meissner, D. (2014, January 10). Sexting B.C. Teen Found Guilty of Child Pornography. The Canadian Press and CBC, The National. Retrieved from .
Morris, K. (2012, November 13). “The Daily Capper” exposes alleged culprit in Amanda Todd suicide. The Daily Dot. Retrieved from .
Sentinel, Orlando. (2010, September 23). Sexting led to record as a sex offender. [Video log post]. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved from .
Palfrey, J. (2009). Hearing on Cyberbullying and other Online Safety Issues for Children (United States House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcomittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security). Retrieved from
Palfrey, J. & Gasser, U. (2008). Born Digital: Understanding first generation of digital natives. New York: Basic Books.
Perren, S. & Gutzwiller-Helfenfinger, E. (2012). Cyberbullying and traditional bullying in adolescence: Differential roles of moral disengagement, moral emotions, and moral values. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9, 195–209. .
Retter, C. & Shariff, S. (2012). A Delicate Balance: Defining the Line Between Open Civil Proceedings and the Protection of Children in the Online Digital Era. Canadian Journal of Law and Technology, 10(2), 232–262.
Richards, R.D. & Calvert, C. (2009). When Sex and Cell Phones Collide: Inside the Prosecution of a Teen Sexting Case. Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal, 32(1), 1–40.
Rickwood, L. (2014, January 14). Does Canada’s Bill C-13 really tackle cyber-bullying? Calgary Herald. Retrieved from .
Sacco, D. T., Argudin, R., Maguire, J. & Tallon, K. (2010) Sexting: Youth Practices and Legal Implications. Berkman Center Research Publication, No. 2010-8. Cambridge: Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
SACOMSS Media Watch. (2013, March 18). This is what rape culture looks like: The Steubenville Rapists [web post comment]. Retrieved from .
Schwartz, D. (2013, August 13). The fine line between ‘sexting’ and child pornography: Criminal Code may be too blunt an instrument to stop the practice of young people sharing sexually suggestive images. CBC News. Retrieved from .
Seidman, K. (2013, November 13). Child pornography laws ‘too harsh’ to deal with minors sexting photos without consent, experts say. The National Post. Retrieved from .
Sinoski, K. (2014, April 14). Extraditing Dutch man for Amanda Todd case could take years expert. The Gazette. Retrieved from .
Slane, A. (2009, March 16). Sexting, Teens And A Proposed Offence Of Invasion Of Privacy. IP Osgoode: Intellectual Property Law and Technology Program. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from .
Southey, T. (2013, December 6). Bill C-13 is about a lot more than cyberbullying. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from .
Steffgen, G., König, A., Pfetsch, J. & Melzer, A. (2011). Are cyberbullies less empathic? Adolescents’cyberbullying behavior and empathic responsiveness. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14, 643–648. .
Van Praagh, S. (2005). Adolescence, Autonomy and Harry Potter: The Child as Decision Maker. International Journal of Law in Context, 1(4), 335–373.
Van Praagh, S. (2007). ‘Sois Sage’- Responsibility for Childishness in the Law of Civil Wrongs. In Neyers, J.W., Chamberlain, E. and Pital, S.G.A. (Eds.), Emerging Issues in Tort Law (pp. 3–84). Oxford: Hart Publishing.
Weber, S. & Mitchell, C. (2008). Imaging, keyboarding, and posting identities: Young people and new media technologies. In Buckingham, D. (Ed.), Youth, identity, and digital media (pp. 25–47). Cambridge: MIT Press. .
Weisgarber, M. (2012, February 10). Probation in rave rape case called a ‘slap on the wrist.’ CTV News. Retrieved from .