Such programs have demonstrated very little success, but at least they don’t directly harm teens. Other responses are more dangerous. Teen girls can be prosecuted under child pornography laws for taking nude photos of themselves. As one judge said, incredulously, “It seems like the child here [is]…the victim, the perpetrator, and the accomplice. I mean, does that make any sense?”
If sexting is framed as dangerous in itself, girls who sext become perpetrators. And that means the state can target them for punishment. Among other consequences, this means sexting laws become a way parents can use law enforcement to squash relationships they don’t like. (Hasinoff points to instances in which parents used sexts to prosecute their children’s same-sex boyfriends or girlfriends.)
Parents, understandably, may not be eager to hear that their children are sexting, just as they may not be eager to have their kids date. But sexting isn’t innately harmful or pathological or evil, and the worst-case consequences are less dire than for many other forms of teen sexual expression. Criminalizing it doesn’t make sense.
I am uncertain of what, if any, legal solution there is for a morals issue. You cannot legislate morality (drugs, prostitution, gambling) and criminalizing teens, branding as a “Sex Criminal” for ill-thought actions will not ‘help’ them.