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Media Watch: Locked Up for Sexting?

by Lauren Ingeno

Woman Texting

June 19, 2017

A 2014 Drexel University study about teenage “sexting” habits is back in the national spotlight after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new bill that some lawmakers are calling “overbroad” and “punishing.”

The Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017, which passed the House by an overwhelming majority in May, is intended to prosecute child pornographers. So what’s the problem? The bill also includes wording that says teens who exchange explicit photographs or videos could be sent to jail for 15 years.

That means locking up young people for an activity that has become as normal to them as scrolling through Instagram.

Drexel researchers found in 2014 that more than 50 percent of college students surveyed had exchanged sexually explicit text messages as a minor, and nearly all of those messages were in a consensual context. Twenty-eight percent reported sending explicit images or videos.

A June 9 USA Today op-ed cites the research, saying that “such behavior among teens is not unexpected,” and the bill “goes against a growing push to change the justice system nationwide.”

David DeMatteo, JD, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and Kline School of Law, who led the 2014 study, calls the bill “well-intentioned but misguided.” Below, he weighs in on the danger of treating adolescents like predators.

Read more at the Drexel News Blog