Say that a local teenager impulsively uploaded a graphic sexual image of himself or herself (or a peer) on a smartphone or social media site.
That’s not smart, right? We all know that as adults, and understand further that adverse implications will likely flow from such an act.
How severe should they be, though? Should so-called “sexting” merit a stint in jail? Expulsion from school? Mandatory inclusion on a sex-offender registry, with its stigmatizing effects and foreclosing of future opportunities?
Most adults tend to generally extend a bit of leeway to adolescents in the wake of conduct that arguably proceeds from rash misjudgment and immaturity more than from any purposeful intention to commit a crime. We were once kids, too, and readily appreciate that we also acted imprudently and without due regard for consequences from time to time.
The proven criminal defense attorneys at Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry in St. Louis have a lot of experience advocating for adolescents facing legal challenges. From our vantage point, we see time and again that second-chance rehabilitation is far preferable to punishment as a preferred go-to strategy for responding to teens’ misconduct in most instances.
We note on our website that, “A big part of growing up is about trial and error” and learning from experience. That education, we submit, is often promoted most when law enforcers eschew pure punishment in lieu of “providing a child the support and tools that he or she needs to move forward and make good decisions.”
Recent study findings indicate that many teens underestimate the degree of seriousness the criminal justice system attaches to sexting, and that the activity is actually on the rise.
That is of course alarming and needs to be addressed through appropriate educational efforts and, occasionally, stern criminal law outcomes.
It is hard to argue against giving most kids a second chance, though, through an instructive response that promotes rather than curtails future opportunities.