By Scott Tibbs, January 2, 2018
Can we please not use a twenty pound sledge hammer to kill a spider, when a flyswatter or a rolled up newspaper would do the job?
I am not opposed to some sort of legal sanction on a 14 year old girl who takes a naked photo of herself on Snapchat, both to discourage this kind of behavior and to and make it clear this kind of behavior is dangerous. One possible solution is to charge her with a misdemeanor with community service, along with a mandatory class on Internet safety.
However, labeling her as a child pornographer and forcing her to register as a sex offender for taking and sending a picture of herself is completely insane. Ruining a 14 year old girl's life is a ridiculous overreaction - and I am not using hyperbole in saying this will ruin her life. Putting her on the sex offender registry will severely limit her employment prospects, her educational opportunities, and where she can live and even volunteer. How about we have some sense of proportion?
There is no question that child porn is a terrible evil and must be harshly punished by the civil magistrate - up to and including the death penalty. But this young teen girl is not a child pornographer or a sexual predator. She is a 14 year old who made a stupid, immoral choice. There should be consequences for that choice, but the solution is not to label her as a sex offender and a danger to her community.
What if she commits suicide? The girl is already facing social consequences for making a foolish choice. This sort of disproportionate reaction by law enforcement, along with the life-altering legal sanctions, is a devastating blow to a young girl's psyche at a time when hormones are high and judgment is low. Are the police and prosecutors comfortable with this teenage girl dying so they can send their message? Are they willing to have her death on their conscience?
Finally, this case serves as a reminder of a very important lesson: Handing a teenager an internet-enabled mobile device unsupervised is a really bad idea. It is dangerous and stupid. I think many of us in Generation X (along with older Millennials) look back and are thankful that we did not have the kind of technology that teenagers have today. Do the parents who are giving these kids this kind of technology not remember what they and their peers were like at 14 years old?