Legal Thriller about Teen Sexting Entertains and Educates
by Pamela Samuels Young
People often ask me where I find the ideas for my legal thrillers. My first book stemmed from a discrimination case I was working on. I then went on to address social issues like sexual harassment in the workplace, child sex trafficking and gender discrimination. I can still remember the exact moment I decided to tackle teen sexting.
I was talking to a long-time friend and law school classmate who is a criminal defense attorney. He started lamenting about yet another teen client charged with distributing child pornography as a result of sending a naked selfie.
“What are you talking about?” I said. “Kids can be prosecuted for that?”
I was absolutely floored when he explained that prosecutors were not just charging kids as young as 13 or 14 with distributing child pornography as a result of sexting, but requiring them to register as sex offenders if convicted. As soon as I hung up the phone, I knew this was a subject I wanted to write about.
When I started researching the topic, I was stunned at the large number of sexting cases occurring all across the country. In some communities, sexting was so rampant, schools have found dozens of students trading naked selfies.
Armed with this knowledge, I set out to write an entertaining legal drama about a sexting case, but also to educate the parents and grandparents about this epidemic.
The result was my eighth mystery, Abuse of Discretion. In the book, 14-year-old Graylin Alexander is charged with possession of child pornography and quickly finds himself embroiled in a legal nightmare.
It’s my hope that after reading Abuse of Discretion, parents and grandparents talk to their children about sexting and become more aware of what they’re doing on their computers and cell phones. When the police show up at their door, it’s way too late.
One message that I wanted to communicate in Abuse of Discretion is that we can’t just sit back and blame our kids for this epidemic. Our society sends very mixed messages our children. On the one hand we want our kids to abstain from sex, yet their daily lives are inundated with it. Sexual images are everywhere: on TV, in music, in movies, in advertising, even in cartoons. Our teens watch popular shows like The Bachelor and see a guy making out with three or four nearly naked girls in less than an hour. So when they hit puberty and start exploring their own sexuality, of course they don’t think it’s any big deal to send a naked selfie. We shouldn’t punish them with life-altering criminal penalties for being too immature to understand the consequences of their actions.
The reality is that the law needs to catch up with technology. Pornography laws were intended to protect children from sexual predators, not used against them. About twenty states have changed their laws so that a child caught sexting would not face the same legal consequences as an adult. It’s time for all states to update their laws.
I must add that not all teen sexting cases should be treated with a lighter hand. There have been cases where a girl or boy was bullied into sending a naked selfie and committed suicide after their picture was posted all over the Internet. Those cases should be treated much more severely.
So far, I’ve achieved my goal of shining a bright light on this topic. Readers tell me that they love the entertaining, fast-paced story. But more importantly, they thank me for opening their eyes to this problem and vow to engage in open and honest conversation with their kids about the dangerous consequences of sexting.
Pamela Samuels Young is an attorney and award-winning author of eight legal thrillers. Her most recent courtroom drama, Abuse of Discretion, tackles a troubling sexting case that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile justice system. Pamela is also the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction for her thriller Anybody’s Daughter. The former journalist received a bachelor’s degree from USC and earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University and UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of child sex trafficking, online safety, fiction writing, and pursuing your passion. To read an excerpt of Pamela’s books or to invite her to a book club meeting or speaking engagement, visit her website at: www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com.
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