In North Carolina, if a 17-year-old girl sends a nude picture of herself to her 17-year-old boyfriend, she could be charged with a felony.
That’s because in summer 2009, the N.C. General Assembly passed a bill that put “sexting,” or the distribution of sexual images via cell phones, under the umbrella of child pornography laws.
High school-aged students might not understand all the repercussions of distributing sexual images of themselves through cell phones. Thus, an argument could be made that they deserve some measure of protection under the law.
But charging these students with felonies for seemingly innocuous (if naïve) conduct is simply absurd.
Nebraska, Utah and Vermont have already slackened their laws. North Carolina needs to do the same. Believe it or not, not everyone shares this sentiment.
Bill Brooks, executive director for the N.C. Family Policy Council, told The Daily Tar Heel that he believed relaxing the law is inappropriate. The N.C. Family Policy Council, as one might suspect, is a group that tries to preserve traditional family values.
But making criminals out of children for performing victimless — albeit stupid — acts does nothing to solve the issue.
Of course, children need to be protected, which means punishment should absolutely be doled out to those maliciously taking harmful photos.
But reformation of this law needs to occur on some level to ensure that children taking pictures of themselves aren’t punished like sex offenders.
Policing behaviors that some find immoral has never been effective, as was demonstrated by prohibition and, more recently, by the war on drugs. Thus, this law should never be used in a way to regulate a child’s conduct, but only as protection for the child.
North Carolina needs to reform this misguided statute.