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How Should Legislators Deal With Minors Who ‘Sext’?

How legislatures should deal with minors, who sext, is lenient considering their lack of maturity. Minor’s (usually adolescence) brains are not fully developed: taking this into consideration, why is it fair to charge someone to the fullest penalty, who is incapable of the full functions as another person (being an adult). Minor’s brains, having less connections to the brain’s network region than adults do, are unable to to reach full potential due to emotions getting the best of the minor. The minor my not be able to control the hormones connected to the emotions due to the maturing stage called “puberty”. This stage prevents the minor from thinking a situation all the way through.

“The study also found that the majority of young people are not aware of the legal ramifications of underage sexting. In fact, most respondents were unaware that many jurisdictions consider sexting among minors – particularly when it involves harassment or other aggravating factors – to be child pornography, a prosecutable offense. Convictions of these offenses carry steep punishments, including jail time and sex offender registration.” (Majority of minors engage in sexting, unaware of harsh legal consequences.) This proves that minors, being the “young people”, are not aware of consequences due to the fact that minors are unable to think of the outcomes. The minor’s brain does not think a situation all the way through, so the consequences are not thought of. If the minor’s brain was developed fully, the minor would have more potential to think of the outcome of a situation. If the minor was able to think all the way through a situation to the outcome, the minor would not commit any crime to get themselves in trouble.

“Are these slip-ups to the extent of sending naked pictures of myself to others? No, but they are as common as the act of sexting has become, which is why we as a society, law enforcement in particular, need to take a step back and avoid ruining a teenagers life for taking part in an increasingly frequent activity.” (Hann) Here, Spencer Hann, the author of “Sexting is just a mistake, not a criminal offense”, is portraying logical evidence of the topic of sexting. Minors should not be charged as a criminal considering the fact that minors are not fully developed mentally. Hann also is proving that authorities should be lenient to minors, stating that “law enforcement in particular, need to take a step back and avoid ruining a teenagers life…”: assuming that law enforcements could be inferred as “legislators”. The legislators should avoid ruining a minor’s life because the minor may not know what they have done. Research has shown that “majority of young people are not aware of the legal ramifications.” (Majority of minors engage in sexting, unaware of harsh legal consequences.)

“During tasks that require self-control, adults employ a wider network of brain regions than do adolescents, and this trait may make self-control easier, by distributing the work across multiple areas of the brain rather than overtaxing a smaller number of regions.” (Steinberg) In the text, proven by Mr. Steinberg, minors are not as fully functional mentally as adults are. Considering this fact, it is unfair and unnecessary to convict a minor to a adult charge. The consideration should be taken due to the fact that a minor’s brain is not fully developed, causing poor decision making. Since the decision making is based on undevelopment of the brain, the legislators should be lenient to a minor. The minor may not be able to control their actions because they feel what they are doing is right.

Another thing to consider while dealing with minors is puberty. Puberty has a huge effect on minors emotionally. Minors are unable to control the overwhelming mix of emotions. “Beginning at puberty, the brain is reshaped. Neurons (gray matter) and synapses (junctions between neurons) proliferate in the cerebral cortex and are then gradually pruned throughout adolescence. Eventually, more than 40% of all synapses are eliminated, largely in the frontal lobes. Meanwhile, the white insulating coat of myelin on the axons that carry signals between nerve cells continues to accumulate, gradually improving the precision and efficiency of neuronal communication – a process not completed until the early 20s. The corpus callosum, which connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain, consists mostly of this white matter.” (The adolescent brain: Beyond raging hormones) This being proven by Harvard, this source is evidence that a minor’s brain is undeveloped and emotions play a big key on minors during the puberty stage.

“Adolescents are indeed less mature than adults when making decisions under conditions that are characterized by emotional arousal and peer pressure, but adolescents aged 15 and older are just as mature as adults when emotional arousal is minimized and when they are not under the influence of peers, conditions that typically characterize medical decision-making.” (Steinberg) In this text, it is proven by Oxford University that once emotions are a factor, the minor is less mature. Emotions are uncontrollable during the puberty stage of an minor. Having a disadvantage at hand, unable to balance emotions while having to make life choices, puts stress on a minor. That stress is what drives the minor into a uncontrollable series of “slip-ups”. One taking place after another, the minor is overwhelmed, taking multiple steps into the wrong direction. Since minors automatically have a disadvantage, legislatures should be much more lenient on any minor who shall “slip-up”. A minor may “slip-up” often. The reason behind their “slip-up” is because not only the lack of potential, but also the lack of maturity.

A minor has an unfair disadvantage from the beginning. A minor’s brain is not even close to development. An adult’s brain is completely developed with experience and wisdom. An adult has had more time and knowledge of a variety of things making the adults superior. The superioress is proven by common day laws and regulations. Kids not being able buy tobacco, children  not allowed to buy alcohol on their own, or even a minor under 18 years of age not being able to vote. Adults have many more rights and responsibilities than do children. The reason being, is that adults are more mentally developed than children. Adults outcompeting minors in many subjects: education, experience, logic, wisdom, cleverness, the fields are endless in the superiority.

Considering all the evidence shown that an adult is much more developed, mature, and experienced, minors should have lenience upon them to provide fairness. Minors should not be charged as an adult, ruining their lives ahead.

“A second factor that complicates adolescent moodiness is that their brains are still physical maturing: Children’s brains are not fully developed until they are in their early 20’s! This incomplete brain development is responsible for much of the cognitive and emotional immaturity that can so easily frustrate parents.” (Oswalt) This article proves that minor’s brains do not develop until later in their lives. A minor should not be charged for something considering the minor is not able to function the the fullest potential. If a minor’s brain is not fully developed, then the minor’s potential to cause problems or even “slip-up” is much greater than an adult’s. Since a minor is not as mature as an adult the charges or penalties a minor is convicted of should be less severe. A minor should not be trialed as an adult considering a minor does not have the same potential as one.

Works Cited

“Majority of Minors Engage in Sexting, Unaware of Harsh Legal Consequences.” Health and Wellness Resource Center, Gale Cengage Learning, 6 July 2014, galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/HWRC/hits;jsessionid=F7570DDE4F1830BCEEDC8D7830140589?docNum=A374142398&aci=flag&tcit=0_0_0_0_0_1&index=BA&locID=j020902&rlt=6&origSearch=true&t=RK&s=1&r=d&secondary=false&o=&n=10&l=d&searchTerm=2NTA&c=1&basicSearchOption=KE&bucket=healthnews&SU=minors+sexting.

Oswalt, Angela. “Mental/Emotional/Social Changes Through Puberty.” Mental Help MentalEmotionalSocial Changes through Puberty Comments, MentalHelp.net, 23 June 2010, www.mentalhelp.net/articles/mental-emotional-social-changes-through-puberty/.

“Sexting is just a mistake, not a criminal offense.” UWIRE Text, 11 Sept. 2015, p. 1. General OneFile, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=j020902&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA428321759&it=r&asid=5f7908f3080ef1296edfff9f0ec2b5bd. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.

Steinberg, Laurence. “Should the science of adolescent brain development inform public policy: neuroscience has made tremendous progress in studying the adolescent brain, opening opportunities–and raising challenges–for using the knowledge to inform a variety of public policies.” Issues in Science and Technology, vol. 28, no. 3, 2012, p. 67+. General OneFile, go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=j020902&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA287392227&it=r&asid=6b6fda0c6065a816b9e72793d1e45980. Accessed 13 Feb. 2017.

Steinberg, Laurence. “Does Recent Research on Adolescent Brain Development Inform the Mature Minor Doctrine?” Does Recent Research on Adolescent Brain Development Inform the Mature Minor Doctrine? | The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine | Oxford Academic. Oxford University Press, 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

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