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Canada recognizes young people’s constitutionally protected freedom of expression and consequently their right to engage in a narrow subset of consensual sexually expressive practices without being prosecuted as child pornographers.
In an effort to reconsider and resist the risk based moral regulation of adolescent sexual expression we reframe consensual teenage sexting through queer theorizations of temporality and futurity, in particular Judith Halberstam’s theorization of “queer time” and risk [23,24].For instance, a notice released by the Ontario Provincial Police’s Child Sexual Exploitation Unit titled “Warning for Teens on Dangers of Irresponsible Texting”, claims: “teens need to become aware that …[sexting is a] risky activity [that] has very real dangers associated with it that includes many unintended consequences and permanent long term threats to their identity and reputations”  13.This caution is repeated in an undated “Message from your Local RCMP” which reads: “minimum sentences for child pornography offences can be jail time.Conversely, since the Supreme Court’s decision in , the purpose of which is to protect children from exploitation and abuse by prohibiting possession of material that presents a “reasoned risk of harm to children” . Thus, to remedy the law’s over breadth the court upheld the law’s constitutionality but determined that it must not be applied to two categories of material—minors’ “self-created, privately held expressive materials” and minors’ “private recordings that do not depict unlawful sexual activity” (, para. Indeed, the court went so far as to acknowledge that such imagery may be “of significance to adolescent self-fulfillment, self-actualization and sexual exploration and identity” (, para. As such, as long as youth consensually create and exchange sexual imagery with other minors with whom they are in an intimate and non-exploitative relationship, for their personal and private mutual enjoyment, such imagery ought to be constitutionally protected.When considering the dual concerns of protecting children and protecting free expression, Chief Justice Mc Lachlin, writing on behalf of the majority, found that prohibition against possession of child pornography “captures in its sweep materials that arguably pose little or no risk to children, and that deeply implicate the freedom [of expression] guaranteed under s. Despite the existence of this exemption, present day social, political, and extra/legal debates surrounding teenage sexting in Canada tend not to acknowledge the constitutionality of this subset of teenagers’ consensual sexual expression 5.In some instances, parents will be at risk of Criminal charges if their child’s phone is in their name While the legal risks of sexting have loomed large in media and crime control coverage as well as academic responses to the practice since 2008 11, also present in these warnings are references to the intimate and financial risks that sexting may pose to minors’, and particularly to girls’, reputations and future prospects [10,27].Notably, despite the fact that the legal rationale for criminalizing child pornography rests on fears about the risk of sexual exploitation, this fear plays a very minor role in anti-sexting PSAs and warnings 12.For example, the study by Huock discovered that sexting was associated with same-sex sexual behaviours, and those who “sexted endorsed more intentions than their peers to have sex in the next 6 months, suggesting that targeted interventions with this group are warranted” (, p. This study further emphasizes that “attention should be paid to adolescents’ electronic communication because sexting may be a marker for sexual risk behaviours that can have significant consequences, including pregnancy or disease” (, p. Results such as these, however, ought to be scrutinized for a variety of reasons.To begin with, unprotected sex and sex combined with alcohol and drug use ought to be of concern for youth, and adults, regardless of whether a relationship to digital technology exists.But what carries a longer sentence is how your actions online can follow you for a lifetime” .Here and elsewhere, the RCMP suggests that sexters will inevitably lose control of their sexual images which will then make their way onto the internet thus affecting teens’ chances to obtain higher education and employment given that: “post-secondary institutions and employers often use the internet to help with the hiring or acceptance” .