DON’T CALL IT A SEXTING SCANDAL: Long Island Viral Sex Video of 14-year-olds is Child Exploitation

According to local news, two 14-year-old boys were arrested after one of them had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl and the other filmed it. The video then circulated around Kings Park High School in Long Island. Unlike other cases of late, this district took a firm stance against the individuals harboring the illicit sex tape on their phones. As a result, twenty students were suspended. It is being described as a “sexting scandal.”

First things first, when kids are involved, these aren’t “sexting scandals.” We are talking about a 14-year-old’s sexual encounter being secretly filmed and passed around the school like it’s a YouTube video of cats doing somersaults. The child became the sexual entertainment for people she sees everyday in the hallways, at lunch, in science class. Many people believe that when two teens exchange nude pictures without the consent of a person in the video, charging them with a crime is an absurd result. Those people are wrong. Kids are capable of extreme cruelty. Just because it’s kids engaging in a given behavior does not make that behavior excusable or automatically dismissible as kids-being-kids. Just ask the parents of Rehteah Parsons, Audrie Pott, Tyler Clementi, and a shitload of my clients.

The boy in the video and the filmer are charged with disseminating indecent material to minors, promoting a sexual performance by a child – both Class D felonies – and sexual abuse in the third degree, a Class B misdemeanor, according to reports. Some parents whose kids received a short suspension for harboring the video on their phone were so outraged, one threatened he was “going to News 12” if Superintendent Timothy T. Eagen did not overturn his son’s suspension. Guess, what, the news has found out, and the “serious problem” this parent was concerned with (i.e. his son’s suspension) is actually the societal problem of kids having digital weapons of destruction in their backpockets they use to destroy lives, intentional or not.

Eagen sent a letter to parents tying the events Kings Park to the “sexting ring” in a Colorado High School that attracted national attention last week, in which kids were assigning point values to their peers’ nudes photos, exchanging them in a stomach-churning competition.

Eagen’s letter pleads with parents to take action in monitoring their kids’ online conduct. “This is not simply a Kings Park issue, but rather a more global issue. The good news is that this is an issue that we can address together as a community.” He goes on to say:

I call the generation of young people in our schools today the “iGeneration.” They have grown up in a world of iPhones, mobile devices, and apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snap Chat. While this is a world that they are very familiar with, this is a foreign world for many adults. Many of our children are using mobile devices and social media in perfectly safe, normal, and educational ways. However, some of our children are engaging in problematic behavior. For example, did you know that there are more than seven (7) different apps that can be downloaded for the purpose of concealing pictures and video on a mobile device? Some of these apps even allow for password protection. One has an icon that makes it appear as a calculator. All of these apps are designed to conceal images from adults.

Eagan is rightly disturbed that no parents knew about the video, or if they did, failed to report it. He credits this to the fact that kids are always attached to their phone, with some even sleeping with devices under their pillows. His goal for the next few months is to work with principals and parents to encourage kids to be upstanding citizens and report. He says that the message that needs to be taught at home and schools is for kids to think before they post – assessing what they are about to post online by using the heuristic THINK:

Is it True?

Is it Helpful?

Is it Inspiring?

Is it Necessary?

Is it Kind?

I THINK this is a step in the right direction.

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