By: Katie Burch, J.D. Candidate ’14 | September 16, 2013
Enough with the Sexting Already – The Need for Change in Arkansas.
Technology has always shared a deep attachment with the greater human race, though the friendship doesn’t always fare well in the American Judiciary System.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ve likely seen or heard stories about the horrors of a phenomenon known as “sexting.” The act, described as the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone, has gained such notoriety in recent years that Merriam-Webster added it to the Collegiate Dictionary in 2012.
According to the medical journal Pediatrics, 15% of adolescents with cell phones or who had access to cell phones in 2012 reported having sent a “sext”, while a staggering 54% knew someone who had sent a sext.
And it doesn’t seem that trend will decline anytime soon, given that children of the 21st century are constantly exposed to media stories of notable individuals who maintain positions of respect and authority despite continually sending inappropriate messages.
For example, Anthony Weiner continues to face media backlash after admitting that he sent a series of explicit messages and pictures to Sydney Leathers. Weiner, if you remember, resigned his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011 after he lied to cover up an extramarital sexting scandal. Even after the scandal was made public for the second time, Weiner ran for the New York Mayoral office in 2013, but conceded after he only received 4.9% of the popular vote.
Similarly, Florida teacher Kaitlyn Hunt, aged 19, who sent more than 20,000 messages – including explicit videos and nude pictures – to a 14 year old student despite a court order that the two not communicate, electronically or otherwise.. Hunt is currently facing two felony charges after allegedly having sexual relations with the student.
So the question then becomes – how do we deter Arkansan minors from committing an act that is widely popularized by the mainstream media without ruining their future? While legal consequences of sexting vary widely from state to state, teenagers accused of sexting in Arkansas courts will face Class B felony charges and be considered for sex-offender status. But should the law focus more on rehabilitation than perpetual punishment?
In Vol. 35.1 of the UALR Law Review, Sidney Leasure makes an argument for reducing the unduly long-lasting consequences imposed on teens who sext in Arkansas while simultaneously deterring the behavior. In the article, entitled “Teenage Sexting in Arkansas,” Leasure lays a compelling solution to address the need for special legislation to address sexting in a way that proves most beneficial for Arkansas’s youth.