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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

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

Summary

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)

Introduction

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.

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