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Since when is child abuse a legitimate law enforcement tool?

By Scott Tibbs, July 14, 2014

"Sexting" among teens is a legitimate problem, and we need to take it seriously. Teens sending sexually explicit pictures or videos to each other via their smartphones is something we as a society should work to fight against, because of how it contributes to the moral degradation of our youth and is a doorway to early sexual activity.

With that established, how does it make sense for law enforcement to forcibly take pornographic pictures of teenage boys? How does it make sense for a so-called "judge" to agree to such an invasive and extreme search warrant - a search warrant that if executed is probably a criminal act in and of itself? While law enforcement ultimately decided not to execute the search warrant, this still raises extremely troubling questions about out-of-control government.

Simply submitting the teen's smartphone as evidence should be enough to prosecute him. But should he be prosecuted for child pornography at all? The common sense answer is no. Prosecuting a teenager for child pornography for taking explicit pictures of himself trivializes child pornography and the evil and horrific abuse the victims endure. There should be some sort of legal sanction for teens who engage in this behavior but this charge is simply overkill.

What is more of a concern is that parents are not training their children and teens in the appropriate use of technology. Many parents are ignorant of the pervasiveness of this kind of behavior, and do not think about the ramifications of giving an internet-enabled mobile computer to a teenager. More parental supervision of teens' use of internet-enabled mobile devices and training those teens in moral standards is what is needed.

Ideally, this should have been handled by the parents before it got to law enforcement to be prosecuted as a crime. The primary deterrent for a teenager considering taking and sending inappropriate media should be how his parents (and his girlfriend's parents) are going to react to his behavior. Melting or smashing their smartphones in front of them (along with other punishments) would be more appropriate than a criminal prosecution.