‘IT’S ONLY A PICTURE’: SEXTING, ‘SMUTTY’SNAPSHOTS, AND FELONY CHARGES

Nov 14, 2021 | 0 comments

Nov 14, 2021 | Essays | 0 comments

Introduction
The main objective of this research was t study cases of sexting among the teens. Due to the nature of behavior and the privacy concerned with the same, the study focused on teens who had been arrested by the police for engaging in such behavior. The focus was on understanding the prevalence of sexting, the risks involved and how teens responded tot any clinical measures that wren applied. Chalfen (258) begin by shoeing recent trends in sexting. The study may seem benign but the authors through the first paragraph quickly show the distress and the severance of the problem of texting. With the introduction of various technological aspects such as the freedom to use the internet, the fact that each teenager and in fact child owns a phone the prevalence of sexting has moved from adult circles to teens and children. The authors highlight that averagely every child by the age of 10 owns a cell phone which has unlimited access to the intent. Further, majority of the adults do not monitor what the child does with the phone. They give an example of a study conducted by Ringrose *et al.*(210) which found that more than 96% of teens have been exposed to sexting, and of this population more than 84% have continued to engage in sexting so that it has led to more and more graphic messages over time. With more social media sites dedicated to sexting, sexual exposure and pornography it is therefore likely that every teenager is exposed to the same behavior which to many seems harmless even though it can lead to severe consequences such as is addressed in this study that is, arrest by the police and engagement with the justice system. Methodology
Two matters were considered in the selection of the methodology: on the one hand, there are the limits that come with studying teens who are considered children. There are several ethical issues which include consent by parents and limits to what the researcher can ask the children and how they can engage with the children. Although the primary data would be more useful and in fact more insightful, it is clear that such limitation would not only lengthen the study, they would also limit the number of respondents. Secondly, the data being sought by the study seems to been centered more on privacy. Sexting and engagement in any sexual behaviorism considered a highly private matter. Few if any of the teens that have been sampled for the study would be willing to engage with the researcher on the same. It is n this basis that the researchers approached the study from the police and investigator’s view. The researchers sampled the investigators who have handled sexting as cases and mailed questionnaires with the required responses to them (260). Mailed questionnaires have several advantages that in themselves could have been attractive to this study. First, investigators rarely have time to sit through an interview, therefore the questionnaire allows them to structure and fit in the study into their own schedule. Secondly, some of the questions would require a look into case files which are not only confidential but also need time to recall. The mailed questionnaire allows the investigator to maintain confidentiality and not divulge unnecessary information thereby ensuring protection of the subjects being studied and maintaining ethical principles of research. Results of the study
Definition of sexting: according to Chalfen (262) sexting in this study was not limited to the sending of explicit messages whether coded or otherwise, but also the sending of sexually provocative images and production of the same. Before an image is sent, there must be a process of production that is the posing and taking of the picture to be sent. This entire process as highlighted through the study culminates in setxing. Teens not only send explicit message, they are also involved in production of the same messages. From the data gathered from the police officers, it is the images which often draw attention of investigators because majority of the images may not be taken through consent and where teens are involved are considered distribution of child pornography which in itself is illegal whether consent was involved or not.
Prevalence of sexting: more than 3,477 cases were reported to the police and investigated for producing and disseminating sexually explicit images. This is in comparison to data collected by the police departments involved in the previous year showing the cases to stand at slightly below 2000,Chalfen (262). The increase in sexting could be attributed to early exposure to sexuality among the teens and access to private mobile phones as well as free internet for purposes of sexting. With the resources being available, it is difficult to control the menace. Further, there has been an increase in investment by police and justice departments in resources and technology that are directed at curbing the behavior which in turn means that culprits are easier to find and records are easier to maintain on the same issue.
Aggravating circumstances: the authors are quick to differentiate between normal sexting and sexting that is directed to aggravated behavior such as forcefully obtaining images and distribution of images without consent. The study found that two thirds of the cases reported involved aggravated behavior where the victims are more than likely to have reported such behavior. The reports came therefore not form constant monitoring but rather from the reports of victims who were caught in the sexting scandals and processes. Of these as shown in . Chalfen*. *(265) 36% involved an adult as the initiator of the behavior. Therefore, the teen either was coerced or forced to produce, send and disseminate sexually exploitative images of themselves or others by an adult. And 31% involved a minor as both the producer and victim of the sexting. From the study, it is clear to see that more and more teens are becoming producers often sending the same images as either acts of maliciousness or simple misdirection. This concurs with data gathered by Dake *et al. *(3) who also showed that more teens are engaged in sexting, a behavior that has led to many arrests and other risky behavior. In fact, in their study they found that few if any teens understood the risks of engaging in sexting. Majority were not even aware that they could be arrested or that there exists a law that prohibits distribution of sexually exploitative images until they were arrested. In 62% of the cases where an adult was involved arrest was made. However, the study also found that in 18% of the cases arrested, the youths were simply experimenting new ways to engage their own partners in sexuality.
Mode of distribution: there are various ways of distributing sexting images, including the use of computer through emailing and social media and the use of the mobile phone through sending messages and social media. With this in mind, the study found that from the data gathered 63% of the images were distributed by phone only. With more and more teens owning phones and technology having advanced so much that the phone can send and receive documents of all nature, it is not surprising that majority of the images were sent via phone. Henderson (9) concurs in his study indicating that, majority of the teens often feel that the use of the cell phone guarantees a form of privacy for both the receiver and the sender. In addition, the mobile phone is much easier to access and make use of at any time with much convenience thus making it an ideal tool for sexting. This, in addition to the fact that it is quite difficult to monitor the activity of a cell device without violating the rights of the individual involved.
Dissemination: the study further found that majority of the images (70%) that were sent did not reach the internet. This limited the distribution and viewing of such images. The senders seem to be aware of monitoring of internet images but lack the same for withal when it comes to the use of their own mobile phones. Police have applied resources in ensuring that sexually explicit images do not reach the internet. This also means that the individuals involved made use of private accounts rather than public social media sites to produce, manufacture and distribute the images involved. Conclusions
The study was to just direct at gathering data but also highlighting the risks that are involved in sexting and one such risk that was the focus of this study was arrest. By making use of arrest records, the study allowed the readers to get an idea of the prevalence of sexting as a behavior and some of the ways in which the images are produced and disseminated. As seen in this study majority of the cases that come to the attention of the police pose a form of risk healthiest and emotionally to those involved. This could include exposure to abuse and psychological manipulation. Majority of these cases involve an adult and a minor who is unaware of the risk that they are exposing themselves to.
However, there are some cases where the behavior involved was quite being. Where such cases were reported, scare tactics were used to discourage the building up of such behavior including, arrest, slight interrogation and lockup for a few hours. It is important to note that few offenders of the being nature were arrested again; most were reformed by the simple scare they got from the brush with the law.
Overall, the study found that arrest is not typical where adults are not involved. This supported the conclusions found by Wolak *et al. *(5) who indicated that cases where adults are not involved are often considered benign and built on youthful negligence, experimentation and poor judgment. They are therefore not taken as seriously, and as such rarely investigated deeply or with the aim of ensuring an arrest and conviction for malicious intent or breaking of the law.

Work Cited
Chalfen, R. (2009). ‘It’s only a picture’: Sexting,‘smutty’snapshots and felony charges. *Visual Studies*, *24*(3), 258-268.
Dake, Joseph A., et al. “Prevalence and correlates of sexting behavior in adolescents.” *American Journal of Sexuality Education* 7.1 (2012): 1-15.
Henderson, L. (2011). Sexting and sexual relationships among teens and young adults. *McNair Scholars Research Journal*, *7*(1), 9.
Ringrose, Jessica, and Laura Harvey. “Boobs, back-off, six packs and bits: Mediated body parts, gendered reward, and sexual shame in teens’ sexting images.” *Continuum* 29.2 (2015): 205-217.
Wolak, Janis, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly J. Mitchell. “How often are teens arrested for sexting? Data from a national sample of police cases.” *Pediatrics* (2011): peds-2011.