Teenagers feel victimised by the anti-sexting laws that were designed for their protection. Now they’re speaking out to Swinburne University student Eloise Manion.
A group of year nine high school students has told the state parliamentary inquiry into sexting that the law needs to be changed to adapt to modern technology and how teenagers use it.
In their submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Law Reform Committee, Ella Keogh, along with three other University High School students, expressed their concerns about the laws on explicit texting and child pornography. The students have claimed “our generation is becoming the victims of these laws rather than the ones that are being supported and sheltered by them”.
Keogh’s submission claimed students understand “the law was made to protect children and teenagers from predatory people”. Nevertheless they saw current laws leave innocent people open for severe criminal offences, especially in the overlap between childhood and adulthood. Her submission says “the law does not think of teenagers in this situation”.
Her submission refers to the hypothetical case of a girl who is 17 and 10 months (legally a child) who sends her boyfriend of 18 (legally an adult) a raunchy picture. As a result of being sent this photo the boyfriend can then be charged with the possession of child pornography and placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register. The girl could also be charged with the production of child pornography for taking an explicit photo of herself which would also result in serious consequences.
Keogh questioned why “the law does not consider that not all of the situations that can be categorised as criminal are intended to be anything even remotely illegal, but rather are entered with quite innocent intentions”? She added: “I think this is an issue that is of incredibly high importance that has a particularly harsh effect on teenagers.”
Other young people agree. St Joseph’s Secondary College student Traeh Cairns told Crikey: “I don’t think any of my mates know, let alone agree, that sexting with their girlfriend is, or should be illegal. But if they’re dumb enough to share around their private photos then it should be up to their girlfriend to decide how to deal with them, not the court,” she said.
“It’s ridiculous that someone can be charged as a sex offender just for being sent a photo that they may not have even asked for.”
Joanne Low, a mother of three, told Crikey she would be horrified if her daughter sent around naked photos of herself: “Though I don’t think any of these girls would ever send these photos with the intention of them being classified as child porn.”