Robin Shellow Attorney | Teenagers, technology and the law.
Why a national change is needed in America's statutory rape laws.
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thoughts on current issues

Clothes Off? Phones Off! FAQs about The Awkward Threesome of Teenagers, Technology and the Law #COPO

Through our phones is how we communicate now, and that can be a problem for teens.

There’s a phrase that gets tossed around, especially around this time of year, about death and taxes being the only sure things in life. While that may be true, with regard to our topic here today, I’d like to propose an amendment to that old time-worn chestnut. From my experience, there are at least two other sure things that you can count on: 1) teenagers in America are going to experiment with sex, and 2) a vocal segment of America will raise a hue and cry about it being the end of civilization as we know it. So, with that in mind, “Let’s talk about sex, baby!

While the first premise is likely an uncontrollable part of normal human biology—the natural expression of emergent hormones signaling the new flesh on a species-wide level to “Spawn or Die!”—it is within the second premise, a uniquely American reaction or OVER-reaction, where we should be able to exert some measure of control. From it’s very inception, this our land of the free has had a powerful puritanical streak when it comes to all things sex. Whether it was Jonathan Edwards and his “Angry God” in the 1700’s, or the busybody, holier-than-thou Reverend’s wife Helen Lovejoy on The Simpsons forever imploring anyone who will listen to “pleeeeease, think of the children!”, America has never known a shortage of shrill, judgmental scolds who remain hell-bent upon criminalizing healthy sexuality and trying in vain to put the genie back in the bottle. Or, if you will, trying to make sure that everyone puts “it” back in their pants.

A new apocrypha for the teens and young adults of the SECH –AGE:

  1. How far did you go?
  2. Let me show you.
  1. Does he still have pimples?
  2. Let me show you.
  1. Were his parents home?
  2. Let me show you.
  1. Did you touch his thing?
  2. Let me show you.
  1. You went all the way?
  2. Sort of—maybe– My phone was off. It happened so quickly.
  3. You mean HOSO?
  4. Hard on Soft off
  1. Your phone was off?
  2. New Rule—Just say COPO (clothes off phones off)
  1. My lawyer said so
  2. You have a lawyer?
  3. Yeah, COPO
  4. Who told?
  5. Snapchat—nothing is gone forever—except my car! My parents took it away
  1. They didn’t take the phone did they?
  2. No the COPS did
  3. The police have your phone?
  4. Yup!
  5. Did you delete your texts from me?
  6. Yes. But my lawyer said the word “delete” means never having to say you’re sorry LOL
  7. Did you know the average person between 16 and 25 texts 19,000 times a month.
  8. Crazy. Does that mean the police have my texts too?
  1. Are you going to Jail?
  2. I don’t know
  3. That sucks
  4. Yup. Life is over
  5. Did they go on your Facebook page too?
  6. Dude, they got EVERYTHING
  7. That’s not cool
  8. Tell me about it
  9. No, I mean not cool for ME
  10. I’m the one going to jail
  11. yeah, well, I’m gonna be right there with you
  12. What do you mean?
  13. If they have your FB, then they can see our DMs
  14. uh oh
  15. yeah, BIG uh-oh
  16. we probably should stop typing…
  17. yep…

There was a time, not that long ago even, when the biggest technological hurdle for young lovers was finding a cord long enough to relocate the kitchen landline into the bathroom down the hall. Privacy is a relative quality it would seem. Gone are the days of having a parent pick up another receiver and interject “It’s 9 0’clock, time to hang up” with god-like finality into the middle of two star-crossed lovers’ sweet-nothings. And while today’s teen courtiers may never know the abject terror of dialing a home phone number and having the obnoxious sibling pick up the call instead, a whole new set of phone-based pitfalls awaits the youth of today, and they come with a host of criminal justice consequences that make the embarrassments of their elders seem quaint by comparison. For instance, those of us who grew up with rotary phones—though we can recall the frustrating tedium of dialing the wrong number on the 7th digit and having to start the whole ordeal over again—we will never know the anxieties and life-altering dangers of digital age romance. Does that red light on the cellphone on the nightstand mean it’s recording? If I take my clothes off am I going to wake up and see my naked body all over the internet?

Perhaps a bit of tech circa 1950 can solve this modern day dilemma? Rotary Cellphones!!! All the connectivity and portability of today, with all the clunky “you need to think about every number entered” physicality of the Eisenhower years. Maybe it is that simple. Slow things down a bit. Make these kids pause a moment before each push of the button. Some of them can’t be un-pushed.

Or, since they seem to love acronyms and hashtags so much, let’s boil down the answer to avoiding serious sex-offender-registry consequences to four simple letters. #COPO. #ClothesOffPhonesOff.

Attorney Robin Shellow
324 West Vine Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Tel: 414-263-4488
Fax: 414-263-4432
Twitter: @robinshellow1

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