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The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Educate yourself about the consequences of sexting

Professors at Drexel do much more than teach classes, grade papers and exams, and hold office hours. Many of them are simultaneously working on their own research projects, and are getting results published in industry magazines. Since we have such a strong College of Engineering, much of the research that students hear about relate to nanotechnology, or robotics, or other topics that are so technical that it’s a struggle for people outside of the field to really understand the projects’ scope and impact. Then there are the professors studying dinosaurs and business trends — more understandable for the general public but also not exactly applicable to a typical college student. Professors in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Law have been researching sexting — something that every college student has heard of (and, according to the study, more than half have participated in themselves).

The researchers surveyed students at Northeastern University and found that 54 percent of the surveyed group reported sexting as minors, and 61 percent of the group said they weren’t aware of the legal ramifications. The professors involved are using the fact that the students who were aware of the consequences as a catalyst for potential policy change. Few states have specific laws about sexting, and there is no national law, so instances of sexting have to be handled according to existing laws regarding child pornography and child exploitation — which the researchers think is too harsh of a punishment.

It’s often said that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and the fact that 61 percent of those surveyed were unaware of the serious ramifications that could result from an activity that seems relatively harmless, is alarming. These students didn’t know that what they were doing at the time could cause them to be prosecuted under the terms of child pornogoraphy and child exploitation laws, and they could be registered as a sex offender. This is all because sexting doesn’t change the facts of child pornogoraphy and child exploitation laws.

Even though at Drexel most of us are over the age of 18, it’s important that we are educated about these laws and others. First of all, we should be educating ourselves about the laws that affect us. How many of us actually know how harshly we can be prosecuted if we’re caught drinking underage? What about if we’re caught with marijuana? Once we’ve educated ourselves, we can help inform our peers and families. If we have younger brothers and sisters, they are statistically probable to sext before they turn 18. Chances are, they’ll listen more to their older siblings who are in touch with technology than to parents who are throwing just another warning at them. Talk to your siblings and make sure they really understand the consequences of sexting.

While we understand the implications of attending such a strong research university, it’s even more interesting to see professors at Drexel doing research that really has the potential to affect students’ lives. As citizens, it’s our responsibility to understand the laws to which we supposedly abide. The sexting research published by Drexel professors proves that if people are aware of the consequences, they are less likely to break the law in the first place. It’s our responsibility, then, to educate ourselves and help educate others to protect ourselves in the long run.