Kids Can’t Screw Up

bob tryI find it disturbing.  More and more, I hear stories about things that either teenagers or even very, very young adults do that end up having a harmful effect on the rest of their lives.

I’ve heard multiple times of an 18 year old “kid,”  (because in my opinion, 18 is still a kid) who has a younger girlfriend/boyfriend.   Someone in that younger person’s life decides to take it upon themselves to go after the 18 year old legally for having sex with a minor.  Lo and behold, that 18 year old is labeled a sex offender.  This label will follow him or her forever!

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, plenty of 16 year olds dated 18 year olds.  In fact, I was one of them.  Only I was the 18 year old.  I was one grade older than my high school sweetheart.    However, his birthday was late in the year and mine was early.  So there were several months where I was 2 years older.  Although we started dating when I was 16, we were still dating when I was 18 (and even 19).  That means that he was 16 for awhile.  If this were today’s day and age, I could have been labeled a sex offender.

I’ve also heard stories where kids, who think they are invincible and also never think in terms of lifelong consequences, sending each other sexting type messages.  Often nude pictures are included.  I’ve heard that there is a “line” of sorts that separates the child from the adult.  And these KIDS can be charged as adults if they hold onto these pictures, calling them child pornography.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I think the sending of these images is incredibly WRONG.  But…. I also know that kids are kids.  And they are going to try to push the envelope.  And some “innocent” kid is going to have something like this on his record because of it.   There was a local story last year of some freshman boys who were passing around pictures of their girlfriends, also freshmen.  So they were all around 14 or 15 years of age.  The boys were facing criminal charges.  I think it is horribly wrong on all levels.  First, why did those girls send naked pictures of themselves in the first place?  Second, the boys were wrong to show each other.  But Third, criminal charges?  i don’t know.  I know we need to teach them lessons, but do they have to have a record at age 15 from a stupid mistake?

I understand that we need to teach our kids right from wrong.  I am attempting to do this every single day with my own children.  However, I just have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that something is wrong when kids aren’t given the chance to learn from their mistakes without having such legal consequences.

I could go on… I think there are many other instances where children just aren’t given the chance to learn things on their own, but these two are fresh in my mind from stories that I’ve heard recently.    I hear things, as a mother, and I can’t help but look at my own children and imagine if something like this happened to them.

What are your thoughts?  Should an 18 year old dating a 16 year old be labeled a sex offender?   What about 14 year olds sending 16 year olds pictures of themselves?  Should either of them face criminal charges at that age?

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