"Sext" Education Goes to Court

Jul 30, 2012

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What would you do if your 16-year old son notified you that he had been charged with possession and distribution of child pornography? Yes, the facts in the case indicate he sent a sexually explicit image of his girlfriend to a few high school buddies; in turn, those friends sent the same image to a few more friends.

After the initial parental shock and despair, what if he explained that it's not really true, but part of a mock court experience he's having at school where 9th grade students are taught the legal consequences of sending sext messages. Whew! Crisis averted!

The mock trial experience was part of an initiative of the school district, local and state government in Victoria, Australia. The purpose of the program is to proactively prevent future sexting offenses.

Real judges and lawyers set the scene and a student volunteers as the guilty party. With more than sixty 9th grade students in attendance at the proceeding, Magistrate Alsop explained that if one person sends an image to 20 people and each of those recipients sends it to 20 more, within nine minutes--3.2 million people would have received the naked image of a child.

The students who witnessed the simulated court proceeding have a much clearer perception of how a single sext message can impact lives, particularly the legal implications. Being branded as a sex offender is just one of the potential outcomes and that can result in being monitored by police and having future employment restrictions imposed (such as not allowed to work with children).

Getting students involved in mock trial scenarios to help them grasp how real of an issue sexting is seems like a very worthwhile endeavor. Has your child participated in a learning experience like this? Does your teen know that child pornography is illegal and that a sexually explicit image of him or herself or a friend is considered child pornography in most states?

Parents: get involved and talk with your child about sending inappropriate text messages before he or she gets a chance to appear in a real courtroom with a real judge.

I work for ContentWatch and all opinions expressed here are my own.