Opinion

Commentary: How to solve a problem like sexting?

Call it "sexting," or just call it foolish. But the what-are-they-thinking act of sending revealing or suggestive photos over cell phones or other electronic equipment should not place a teenager on a state sex-offender registry.

As police and prosecutors face an increasing number of sexting complaints, prosecutors are wrestling with how to handle cases.

Possession of child pornography is one of the 20 felony sex crimes encompassed by Idaho's sex offender registry. The photos, addresses and criminal histories of convicted sex offenders – adult and juvenile alike – appear at the Idaho State Police Web site. There, anyone can search for registered sex offenders by name or zip code, or get a map that pinpoints offenders living within a 1-, 3- or 5-mile radius.

It's a reasonable public policy tradeoff. Sex offenders, convicted of felony crimes that carry historically high reoffense rates, report to law enforcement. Parents and youth groups have access to information that can help protect children from sexual abuse.

Neither part of that equation seems to apply to sexting.

It would serve no purpose to stigmatize sexting teenagers by adding them to a sex-offender registry – even though, under state law, a juvenile sex offender may be removed from the list at age 21. Adding a new, potentially growing list of teens to the list would make the registry that much more cumbersome, and would do nothing to help parents and youth groups identify sexual predators.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Idaho Statesman.

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