Under age "sexting", should it be a criminal offense?

All 50 states require a sex offender to register for life.  Recently with the advent of the internet and text messages children under the age of 18 who are accused of "sexting" or sending illicit sexually graphic photos and messages, are treated as sex offenders and required to register.

How do you feel about this?  Here is my response!

I do agree that sex offenders should be required to be registered for life only because they are likely to recommit the crime.  I took a look at a few studies about the repeat rate of sex offenders.  The general public believes that 75 percent of sex offenders will repeat their actions although recent research has shown that this rate is much lower.  Sex crimes researchers R. Karl Hanson and Kelly E. Morton-Bourgon of Public Safety Canada conducted a large-scale meta-analysis of recidivism (repeat offense) rates among adult sex offenders. They found a rate of 14 percent over a period averaging five to six years. Recidivism rates increased over time, reaching 24 percent by 15 years (Arkowitz et al, 2008).  Still 24 percent is a huge number when it comes to protecting innocent children.  Even one percent in my mind is enough to warrant concern.
Another interesting statistic is that one third or more of all sex offenders are under the age of 18, with some even as young as five years. Most begin to offend sexually in adolescence and continue into adulthood.  While “sexting” may seem innocent, and may very well if it is happening at a young age during a time period where most boys are just discovering their sexuality, it may also be a big red flag for things to come and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Should someone under 18 who is “sexting” be branded for life as a sex offender?  I don’t believe so.  I think that they should however be closely monitored and also go though some sort of mandatory evaluation and counseling.  I also think that it depends on the severity of the offense meaning was it just an innocent flirtation toward someone or was it stalking?  Each individual case should be examined when it comes to underage offenses.   Making a child register as a sex offender will alter their life in a very negative way and will haunt them into adulthood when it comes to employment and school.  Again, it is not something to be taken lightly.

Resources used:
Arkowitz, H., Lilienfield, S., “Once a Sex Offender Always a Sex Offender? Maybe Not” , Scientific American, April 2008.

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