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House GOP Newsletter

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

♦ Child Sexting is a problem Colorado is ill-equipped to address   
♦Weekly Press   ♦In the News   ♦Tweets of the Week   ♦Capitol Pictures


Child Sexting is a problem Colorado is ill-equipped to address


By Representative Yeulin Willett (R-Grand Junction)

Sexting is a real and urgent issue, as reflected in recent press coverage. However, our criminal code has not kept pace with evolving technology in this regard. The General Assembly owes it to Colorado’s kids and their families to take swift action to prevent more kids from receiving unnecessarily harsh punishments and to curb this disturbing behavior. In the last legislative session, I carried legislation that would have addressed child sexting, but sadly my bill never received a definitive up or down vote. I am committed to continued work on this issue, for as long as it takes, to ensure that we address this problem and also educate Colorado kids of the ramifications of certain adult behaviors.


Certainly, parents are aware of the dangers that automobiles, drugs and alcohol pose to their kids, but what about the dangers posed by texting or sharing illicit pictures and videos on social media? Likely, not many parents know this is currently a felony crime in Colorado, and could result in their child’s name listed in the national sex offender registry. My legislation reduced the penalties for child sexting and allowed district attorneys more leeway in how they address and reprimand minors who engage in this behavior. However, the reasons this bill failed are surprising. Some opposition believed that so-called consensual sexting is harmless and should not be subject to any sanctions. Everyone can agree that handing down felony convictions and branding minors as sex offenders for sexting is absolutely not the answer, but we should not dismiss the proliferation of illicit images of minors as normal and acceptable behavior.

 My bill would have added a misdemeanor charge for minors, for conduct that did not rise to a felony level, and would have made “consensual” conduct a petty offense. Further, the petty offense would have been automatically expunged from a minor’s record, would have ensured the images were destroyed, and would have allowed the system to immediately intervene and educate the participants about the dangers of sexting.
 
During my bill’s debate in committee, I heard arguments that sexting is simply a modern version of flirting, and that it’s normal for kids to experiment. However, while consensual behavior is initially limited to the participants, once it’s uploaded, its fate is unknown and, most importantly, uncontrollable. A digital file can be shared an infinite number of times, can be hacked or inadvertently posted, and even when its created consensually, can be shared if feelings between the parties involved change; creating a situation wherein what was once consensual suddenly results in great emotional distress and embarrassment, or worse.
 
While sharing these files may appear harmless, the result of this behavior is the proliferation of child pornography. Law enforcement is tirelessly working to eliminate child pornography on the internet—simply possessing this kind of material is a class 4 felony—but when kids are willfully producing this illicit content how can we expect officials to make any progress.
We also heard arguments in committee that District Attorneys are not charging these minors with felonies, making additions to the criminal code unnecessary. However, a sampling of just two areas —Boulder and Grand Junction—produced nine total felony prosecutions of minors for sexting in the last year.
 
Most of our kids are active on social media, and willingly posting very personal and sensitive content online. A recent study indicated that the average age a child receives a cell phone is six, and consider it only takes a couple of simple taps on a device to connect with other kids, older siblings, or anyone that may share more mature content. In this age of emerging technologies and rapid-fire sharing, we must ask those who believe that sexting should not be an offense: how young is too young to view illicit content?
 
The sad truth is these images can live in cyberspace for an eternity, and the threat they pose for a minor later in life is very real. Kids need to know that sexting is dangerous behavior that can have a lifetime of consequences. I agree education is critical to stopping this behavior, but we need to send a strong and effective message to kids that this behavior is not only dangerous but also illegal.
I look forward to helping Colorado join other states that have enacted sensible laws to protect kids from the dangers of sexting.

 
If you have thoughts about the child sexting issue or would like more information, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and you can keep up with all of our caucus updates by following us on Twitter and Instagram, liking us on Facebook, subscribing to our YouTube channel or visiting COhousegop.com.

Sincerely,

Yeulin Willett


Tweets of the Week

Polly Lawrence @ PollyLawrenceCO

Just attended the Parker Memorial Day ceremony at the Parker Cemetery. A beautiful remembrance and opportunity to honor those who serve our country and have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of all of us.  

Lori Saine @LoriSaine

God bless those and protect those protecting us  
Jon Becker @RepJBecker

Collapse of Colorado coal industry leaves mining towns unsure of what's next   

Capitol Pictures

Representative Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) speaks at the Brush American Legion Memorial Day service.
Representative Lois Landgraf (R-Fountain) visits the American Legion on Memorial Day.
Representative Tim Dore (R-Elizabeth) at the Lions Club Breakfast in Prowers County.
 
 
 
 

You can keep up with all of our updates by following us on YouTubeTwitter and Instagram, liking us on Facebook, or visiting COHouseGOP.com.

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