"I can never get that Photo back
"It's out there forever"
- part of a video message from 15-year-old Amanda Todd made before she committed suicide earlier this month after being bullied over a topless photo
Society has an obligation to protect its children - even from themselves - by prohibiting certain actions because they lack the maturity to make an informed decision.
Examples include smoking and drinking alcohol.
A measure on Gov. Tom Corbett's desk takes a similar - and needed - tack when it comes to electronically transmitting nude photos of oneself, commonly known as sexting.
It's an activity that's growing, especially with the spread of electronic devices that can nearly instantaneously capture and transmit images. But once an image has been sent or posted online, it's out of that person's control forever and can come back to haunt the sender years later - as some have discovered.
House Bill 815, which passed the House and Senate last week, seeks to deter sexting by minors by creating a criminal charge for the offense that could be expunged from their record.
Currently, sexting by a minor would be considered child pornography, if prosecuted, and conviction would result in a blemish on his or her record for life. Because of this, instances of sexting by teenagers often are not prosecuted.
HB 815 would create a summary offense for those under age 18 who use a cellphone or other device to send a naked picture of themselves to someone else or for knowingly viewing or possessing a naked photo of a minor who is at least 12 years old.
The charge would rise to a third-degree misdemeanor for a minor sending a naked photo of another minor to a third person, while a second-degree misdemeanor charge could be levied against a minor who sends a naked photo of another with the intent to coerce or bully or takes a photo of another minor without his/her consent.
Images showing any sexual activity by minors or naked images of children younger than age 12 would be prosecuted under current laws, including child pornography statutes.
Some legislators expressed reservations about creating a new crime aimed at sexting by teenagers. Sen. Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, was quoted by PA Independent as saying, "I don't think these issues belong in criminal court. They're just kids being kids and being stupid. I really think we need to rethink this."
But society has an obligation to protect children - even from themselves being stupid.
HB 815 sets the right balance by imposing a penalty on minors for sexting, without creating a permanent blemish on their record. And Corbett should sign it into law.