A few years ago, a New York Times syndicated story broke about 8th grader, Margarite, sexting a full frontal nude photo of herself to her (also) 8th grade boyfriend, Isaiah. As 8th graders do, they broke up soon. He forwards the text to pretty much everyone. A couple of “mean girls” adds the near-compulsory: “If you think this girl is a whore, text this to all your friends.” Of course, it goes viral. Enter outraged parents & school boards. Criminal charges were brought against the boyfriend, the 2 mean girls for felony Child Pornography. Of course, after mea culpas all around, charges were lowered and with some community service, everyone walks. Poor Margarite. She will have to live with the embarrassment of everyone seeing her naked.
As she should. And her parents. And the parents of all the kids who forwarded the video.
Time Out This!
This is the part where I enrage nearly everyone and shoot From The Hip. Yes, I said it: Not only will Margarite have to suffer for years from this embarrassment, but she should. Without the least fear of sounding like everyone who ever lived past 40, “teens today need to learn there are consequences to actions.” Not just sexting, or online, but in life. Video games and over protective parents have nurtured a couple of generations of kids that never have to suffer the consequences of their actions. Get killed in a video game? No problem. Respawn. Too Fat? Sue the fast food chain. Slice up the neighbor kid? Twinkies made me do it. Sext nude photos of your package? Continue with your multimillion dollar NFL career. The 3 kids that forwarded (and made Margarite’s sext go viral) were originally charged with Child Porn, which they were clearly guilty. They were given reduced charges because the adults felt they were being “punished too severely”. Isaiah’s defense: “I didn’t know it was against the law.” I am going to be ill.
How It Should Have Been Handled
1.) Margarite should have been charged since she originated the child porn. Her punishment: embarrassment… and dig this: her cell phone & Internet privileges temporarily taken away. Result: She threw a hissy fit. Are you kidding me? Child pornography has, and should, carry a sentence of years. In Prison. Margie should be thanking everyone involved for ONLY losing her cell phone. Stupidity should have a painful cost and clearly Margie-poo has not learned her lesson if she thinks phone privileges is punishment enough for gross stupidity, a felony and loose morals (more on that later).
2.) The PARENTS of Margarite, the three kids, & EVERY kid that forwarded the video should be fined so severely that it sparks a national tidal wave of parents talking to their kids about the responsibilities and privilege of using a phone, a computer or a brain. The parents of children that commit crimes, or even massive stupidity, should be punished. Severely. Make it so painful that if they aren’t smart enough to see the reason for it by themselves, they can at least understand the legal reason they should teach their kids to be responsible. They are The Adults. They have to be responsible for minors. That’s why Child Safety seats are Law. Isaiah saying that he “didn’t know it was the law” is a lame excuse. How about did he know “it was WRONG?” If he is smart enough to operate a smartphone, he should be smart enough to know, understand, and LIVE the Golden Rule. How would he like it if Margarite sexted his naked photo virally? Either this kid is lying or morally bankrupt. In either case, he is the product of his upbringing. Not only should he stand up and say “I was wrong. What I did was hurtful and malicious and I should pay for it.” So should his parents.
3.) Instead of punishing everyone involved and making examples of this nationally noted case, they reduced the charges and let everyone off, reinforcing the “I’m not ever responsible” message. And the beat goes on.
4.) Long before it ever got to this point, the parents should have instilled the Concepts of Right and Wrong, Personal Responsibility, and Common Sense by example and some toasty backsides. I am not advocating child abuse, but I think that our world would be a better place if more parents gave a few less Time Outs and few more cracks on the ass. (Yeah, I know that is going to get me some email, but the reality is:) It’s up to parents to teach their kids personal responsibility and Reward & (Reasonable Corporal) Punishment should be part of the solution. It’s easier to turn away, and sue someone later when Johnny robs a liquor store. I’m not saying break the leg off the Time Out Chair and use it on them (out loud), but if my Baptist mother caught me sending nude pictures, I still wouldn’t be able to sit down! A lesson I would not have had to learn twice.
Aside from the criminality of the whole thing, beyond the bad parenting, Margarite was called a whore by the other 13 year old felons. Now, technically, a “whore” is “a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse” and while she didn’t actually commit intercourse, did she think that sending full frontal nude shots of herself to another 8th grader was going to look good on her Permanent Record? Is this the act of a moral young lady? Not so much. I was a teenage boy once (okay, not recently!) and if I received nude pictures of my girlfriend, the first thought that would go through my… mind… would be “She’s Easy. And I am going to get sooo Lucky.” Was THIS the message Margie was TRYING to send? Nice 13 yr old girls hold hands, write lame poetry, aren’t allowed to date for 17 more years, and don’t stand nude in front of a full length mirror with camera phone.
I hate to admit it, but my teenage years were so far in the past that, at 13, I didn’t even know what “Lucky” was at that age. (As opposed to today, when 10 year olds are coming home pregnant and Cinemax explains how.) The fact that Isaiah broke up with her soon after probably means one of couple things: A.) he was put off by her lascivious behavior , B.) he slept with her (post photo) and was over it, C.) he has a mean, vicious streak in him that believes by embarrassing or belittling someone else, he increases his own social position (a not uncommon thought process at that age), or D.) all of the above. [There are some other weaker theories that involve his sexual orientation, and/or Margarite’s attractiveness, but not relevant to the moral of the story.]
The Take Aways:
- Margie was not a Nice Girl. Boys enjoy Bad Girls, but fall In Love with Nice Girls. (caps intentional.) Margie’s not evil, but let’s just say her Moral GPS (“compass” to us Old Farts) needs a serious calibration.
- Did she get what she deserved? No… she got off easy. (No pun intended.) She committed a felony, an act of gross stupidity, and a huge lapse in good sense. She walked away with some embarrassment and her cell phone temporarily banned. Puh-lease!
- All of the children who forwarded the video should have been prosecuted – Make examples: stupidity should be painful, costly and discouraged. Let’s teach the tens of millions of other teens a lesson or three here.
- The Parents of every kid connected should have been fined severely to inspire Good Parenting or else. Clearly, the Good Ship Ozzie & Harriet has already sailed for these parents, or their kids wouldn’t have forwarded this poor little idiot’s photo to everyone they knew. But maybe if facing fines stiffer than Seat Belt Laws, they would consider teaching their kids common sense, decency or at the very least, cell phone etiquette.
- Don’t ever commit anything to paper, or electrons, that you wouldn’t want your mother, spouse, pastor or future employer to see. It’s the age of TMI and with the click of a mouse or cell key, your one little “oopsie” could ruin your life. Or someone else’s… and you should pay for it.
- Maybe prior to handing kids Weapons of Moral Destruction, we could give them a mandatory test on Online Do’s or Don’ts. I know that kids having phones is a great way to keep track of them, but it’s not a Right, it’s a privilege, and responsibility for both parents and kids.
- While we’re at it, can we test Adults prior to being allowed to reproduce? Or at least make them take lessons in Common Sense and Personal Responsibility? We have to take a Drivers License test and a world filled with morally ignorant, entitled, irresponsible kids is infinitely more dangerous than passing on the right.
Am I picking on Margarite and Isaiah personally? No. They just happened to be the poster children for the latest of several generations armed with communication weapons, a lack of common sense and the maturity to use them wisely (nuclear weapon subtext anyone?), and parents that clearly have not taught them Right from Wrong. If it makes you feel better, you can substitute any of their names with Brett, Tiger, Mel, Lindsey or Charlie.
A few weeks later, Margarite whined it not being fair that her phone was taken away and it was given back to her.
For more info on this story, Google: +Margarite +sexting