Among the most repugnant and abhorrent crimes, abuse towards children tops the list for many Americans. Innocent children across this country often fall victim to physical or sexual abuse, which harmfully impacts the child for a lifetime. In fact, about twenty-eight percent of children have been sexually abused, which is nearly one in three, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. A recent bill passed by the House of Representatives attempts to provide justice for these children. However, the law will likely lead to lengthy sentencing not only for sex offenders but also for minors.
The House passed the Protection Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017 last week with the purpose of protecting children against child pornographers and solicitors. The bill would create mandatory minimum sentencing for such offenders, which works by raising the conviction time served by offenders after each subsequent arrest. Strangely, the bill also targets those that lawmakers claim to defend – minors.
“Sexting” is a punishable crime under the Protection Against Child Exploitation Act. As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, sexting involves sending sexually explicit texts or photographs of oneself to someone via mobile phone. According to a study by Drexel University, over fifty percent of teens have engaged in sexting. Children as young as twelve years old are often found sporting smartphones and using social media without proper supervision. Without supervision, these kids may engage in sexting with their boyfriends or girlfriends of similar age. Children engaging in sexting or circulating such photos could face up to fifteen years imprisonment and a life sentence as a registered sex offender under the Protection Against Child Exploitation Act.
Do sexting teens truly deserve an equal sentencing time to those who commit violent sexual crimes against children? The answer from most Americans would be a resounding no, and scientific evidence backs this answer. The brain of a teenager is not yet fully matured for rational decision-making until about age twenty-five, as explained by the University of Rochester Medical Center. For this reason, teens are often prone to making riskier decisions compared to adults. Given a smartphone, teens can quickly share material they may later regret, including explicit photos of themselves. However, adults who produce or solicit child pornography are violently harming children, holding them against their will. The situation does not seem remotely similar to teens engaging in sexting, and punishment should not be equal.
Convicting sexting children to a maximum of fifteen years imprisonment and a life sentence as a registered sex offender certainly shows that the government is not meant to serve as a parenting entity. Simply put, teens make mistakes. Parents should guide children on the proper uses of smartphones and social media, as sexting could have serious consequences. The explicit photos a teen shares could become circulated throughout an entire high school by peers, leading to possible embarrassment and suicide risk for the teen. Through the guidance of attentive American parents, however, teens can become educated on the dangers of sexting and use their smartphones in a more positive manner. With proper direction, perhaps teens will begin renting books or using the Internet for education instead of sexting. Or maybe they will just play video games.
Americans are largely rejecting the Protection Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017. The bill would put our nation’s children in danger of unwarranted sex offense convictions, possibly ruining their chances of a stable job and college career. Instead of the government attempting to play the role of a childrearing entity, the job of educating teens on the dangers of sexting should lie in the hands of their parents.