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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Senate passes Arizona sexting law

The Arizona Senate passed a bill on March 10 making it a class two misdemeanor for minors to send or possess sexually explicit text messages to or from another minor.

Chris Segrin, UA department head of communication and psychology professor, defines “”sexting”” as people taking nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves or others and sending them as picture messages by e-mail or cell phone. It can also include sexually explicit written text or e-mail messages, but he said those cases are less common in terms of prosecution.

“”It is ordinarily enacted by young people with images,”” Segrin said.

Segrin has conducted research about sexting between minors and knows of three surveys on the topic, geared mainly toward young adults ages 14 to 18 who have sexted or know someone who has sexted.

“”Only about 10 percent of the people that do it end up getting caught doing it, and these are minors,”” Segrin said.

Jenna Bauerlein, a retail and consumer sciences junior, said sexting is just something that kids that age do and that a law won’t prevent everyone from doing it.

“”It’s so common that I can’t imagine they could successfully keep kids from doing it … you’re going to get a lot of kids getting in trouble,”” Bauerlein said. “”Kids are always going to find loopholes in technology to do something they shouldn’t.””

Segrin said it’s important that this legislation was passed because the law is specific to this offense, unlike before.

“”Originally, the only law you could use to prosecute would be child pornography and the spirit of the law, why it was written, did not apply for sexting,”” he said. “”The law wasn’t right for the problem.””

Segrin said the seriousness of a sexting charge is about the same as a shoplifting charge. The consequences are not extremely serious, and court can be avoided if the minor participates in a 90-day diversion program, which can include counseling, community service or life-skills training.

Segrin believes there will be more prosecutions for sexting now that the bill has been passed, and eventually, there will be more research about sexting at the college level.

“”Too often, people are starting to use technology to replace things that were done face to face, and that changes the nature of relationships and their authenticity,”” Segrin said.

Though the research has only focused on sexting and minors, Segrin said it’s reasonable to speculate that this is something going on at the college level as well.

“”At a college age, these are adults, most of them don’t live with their parents and they don’t have teachers confiscating cell phones,”” Segrin said. “”If college students were doing this, it would be much more difficult to catch them.””

Once an individual turns 18, the issue of sexting more or less disappears because there are different laws and regulations. The issue with those 18 and older occurs if they are sending or receiving explicit images or texts from a minor.

“”I just think (sexting is) a bad idea,”” said pre-business freshman Wes Baker. “”If they want to, it’s their choice, they can get screwed, they just have to realize that.””

Segrin said the exchange of pictures over a cell phone between consenting adults is considered legal, but whether it’s intelligent is another question.

“”I think some of the people who are doing this don’t fully appreciate the implications of where this could go,”” Segrin said. “”Anything you send on text, e-mail … there’s a permanent record of that somewhere.””

Segrin believes it’s important to educate today’s youth on the consequences of these behaviors.

“”Young people have a much greater expectation for privacy with the Internet and their cell phone than is reality,”” Segrin said.

Many kids don’t realize that a picture they send to someone could be spread around and come back to haunt them later in life.

“”We also think that it’s becoming more normative,”” Segrin said. “”Like tattoos or piercings, you see your friends are doing it, and you do it too.””

According to Segrin, it’s also becoming a norm for people to ask others to send them sexually explicit photos.

“”I’ve had so many friends who have sent ‘naughty’ pictures to their boyfriend, and they’ve ended up on the Internet,”” Bauerlein said. “”A lot of people send them without realizing how much they need to trust the person to send it.””

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