MNU news

Professor Edits Book on Sexting

Variety of experts offer a multidisciplinary review of complex topic

By Kim Campbell
May 12, 2014

Todd C. Hiestand, J.D, professor of criminal justice, is co-editor of Sexting and Youth: A Multidisciplinary Examination of Research, Theory, and Law, a textbook that publishes in May by Carolina Academic Press. Hiestand co-edited the textbook, which compiles insight from a variety of legal and academic experts on the subject, together with Professor W. Jesse Weins of Dakota Wesleyan University. The two have collaborated previously on the subject of sexting.

“There is a good deal of multi-disciplinary interest in the topic of sexting,” shares Hiestand. “The goal of the book is to bring together several different perspectives on this issue.”

One of the main issues discussed in the book the application of current law associated with the issue of sexting. Currently many cases of juvenile sexting are falling back on laws that were originally written to address issues associated with child pornography.

“These laws get applied to sexting,” says Hiestand. “So one of the issues, from a legal perspective, is really how to write a law that separates teens who engage in traditional child pornography offenses from teens engaged in sexting.”

Broad and inconsistent definitions of the term “sexting” have also added to the differing manner in which the wider issue is interpreted and addressed. Current studies cite a variety of percentages and age ranges for juveniles engaged in this behavior, and the definition of the term greatly affects the scale of those who are involved.

Hiestand and Weins offer this definition of sexting within the book: a person under the age of majority who takes pictures or video of themselves engaged in sexually explicit behavior and sends them to someone else.

The text is aimed at an academic audience as it raises key questions across the disciplines of social science, law and technology. How often do youth engage in sexting and what is the best way to research its prevalence? Is youth engagement in sexting correlated with other risky behaviors? What free speech rights do juveniles have? Should traditional child pornography laws be applied to juvenile sexting behavior? Is sexting a natural result of teens involved with technology? Or perhaps is it better dealt with through education as opposed to new laws?

Students and faculty will benefit from the expert opinion of multiple contributors and a comprehensive review of the topic from a variety of perspectives.

“We’re not giving an easy answer to many of the questions raised by youth sexting, but hopefully this book will assist policy makers by providing a comprehensive analysis of this complex topic” says Hiestand. “It’s one of the questions that society will have to ponder. Hopefully we do think seriously about it and make thoughtful decisions aimed at the issue.”

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