Our laws against child pornography were created many years ago, when the production of child pornography was a much more difficult process. A would-be child pornographer had to use film cameras to take the pictures. And since a commercial lab would report him to the police, he had to have the equipment and skill to develop the film as well. Pretty much the only people willing to go through that much trouble were dedicated scumbags.
That’s not the case anymore. I haven’t seen any statistics, but I’m pretty sure that today the single largest group of child pornography producers — by sheer number of images and videos — are children. We can blame it on modern cell phones with built-in cameras, which give every child all the tools they need to create and distribute child pornography. And who has better access to naked children than a child?
Thus, we have the great “sexting” epidemic. And naturally we have the moral panic which goes with it. So we have teen couples who make videos of themselves having sex and get busted for child pornography, and we have 15-year-old girls busted for sending pictures of themselves to other kids.
All of which brings me to a rather surprising new law that’s just been passed by the Illinois legislature:
Teens who forward or post online racy pictures of their underage classmates would get juvenile court supervision that could result in mandatory counseling or community service under legislation sent to Gov. Pat Quinn today.
The first measure aims to educate teens about the dangers of “sexting” while modernizing state statutes for the Internet age. Under current Illinois law, teens caught with nude photos of other juveniles can be charged as sex offenders, lawmakers said.
The Illinois bill, which passed 52-0, doesn’t penalize youths who send or receive the risque photos but choose not to distribute them widely. It applies to kids under 18 who use computers or cell phones to distribute the pictures, and the court supervision amounts to a scolding.
That seems…sensible. The bill addresses the issue of sexting with a sense of proportion and avoids branding children as sex offenders. Our legislators appear to have successfully resisted the urge to moral panic and moral grandstanding.
I didn’t see that coming.