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Where is the middle ground for sexting laws?

Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory writes about a new bill in New Jersey that would prevent minors who engage in “sexting” (taking naked pictures of themselves and sharing them with boy- and girlfriends) from being prosecuted as child pornographers. As Clark-Flory explains, you don’t have to be in favor of kids sharing naked pictures of themselves to understand that child porn laws shouldn’t be used against them…

The bill gives teens the option of paying for an educational program as a way to avoid a damaging criminal record. Assemblyman Jon Bramnick told NBC that the measure “sends a clear signal to the Judiciary that when young people make a mistake, this Legislature is saying, ‘give them a chance, give them an option other than a criminal past.'” He’s absolutely right — it is absurd for “sexting” to land a teen on the sex offender registry — but Bramnick, and the measure itself, would be more right if they allowed that sometimes it isn’t a mistake or wrong when teenagers take sexy self-snapshots, that it can be part of normal sexual development.

Now, to be clear, I don’t think it’s a good idea for teenagers to distribute naked photos of themselves. More often than not it’s a bad idea to digitally share naked pics, even with a committed lover, and we should communicate that to teens. (We should also be educating kids, and adults, about the profound potential for embarrassment and professional consequences in digitally sharing even personal images that are not pornographic.) If we were really concerned with the well-being and personal rights of teenagers, though, we would create a legislative safe space for sexual exploration.

How to fix “sexting” laws

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