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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Kids are just kids

By Aaron Zundel

I don’t know about any of you guys, but I was never 11 years old. Straight from the womb I popped out a fully developed, rational, well-mannered adult. And I certainly never did anything wrong.


I own a Porsche and I never speed, either.

Truth is, we were all 11 years old once. We were all young and stupid and irresponsible. Some people, however, have very short memories, and they forget what childhood was like. Indeed, it never ceases to amaze me when adults hold children to the same standards that they hold themselves to. Or when adults criticize children for being true to their nature8212;that is, ignorant, inexperienced and cognitively underdeveloped8212;with questions such as, “Don’t you know anything?!” “How could you be so stupid?!” and “What were you thinking?!” Questions to which the answers are so painfully obvious that their very utterance illuminates more about the intellectual faculties of the asker than the target.

By their very nature, children don’t know better, they’re prone to doing stupid things and they don’t have the mental faculties to think like they should.

How can they? They’re kids.

So when American Fork police decide to charge two 11-year-old boys who were caught at school viewing online pornography with “dealing harmful material to a minor,” a third degree felony, I have to wonder how much those police officers have forgotten about themselves and their own life experiences.

Although police refuse to speak about the specifics of the case, given the age of the offenders, they have confirmed that the two boys pulled up explicit images on the Internet at the computer lab at Forbes Elementary School in American Fork, the two boys showed the images to at least nine other boys and days later at least two of the nine exposed boys reported the incident8212;one to a parent, the other to the school’s principal8212;complaining that the images were stuck in their minds. After the incident was reported, American Fork police got involved and told reporters they would likely charge the two boys with the felony.

Although it is easy to understand the strong reaction of police and school administrators to the incident8212;pornography on an elementary school campus is totally unacceptable8212;one must question the value in taking such extreme action against two young offenders.
Of course, some will say that “boys will be boys,” and that this incident is nothing more than the fallout of everyday childhood experience. I disagree. And that’s not the point. Make no mistake, the incident is serious. Like loaded guns and that scary clown from “It,” pornography has no place around children. Study after study shows that pornography warps childrens’ mental development, sexual attitudes and predisposes them to participate in premature sexual activity8212;none of which can be considered “healthy,” even by the most liberal standards.

However, if we take a step back and view the incident from a broader context, it is clearly more appropriate to give the boys a stern talking-to and help them understand the gravity of the situation than it is to slap them with a criminal record.

With inexperience comes the inability to foresee the gravity and consequences of our actions. As a result, children often wind up doing or experiencing things that are detrimental to their well-being. We have a name for these experiences. They’re called mistakes. The traumatic scars from these mistakes can (and do) have a tendency to haunt people for the rest of their lives. Yet those same scars and experiences are precisely what enable people to learn and evolve into wise adults.

By the very fact that the two boys from Forbes Elementary are too young to have the experience required to understand the gravity of their actions, this incident ought to be viewed similarly8212;as a mistake8212;and school administrators ought to be more concerned with helping the boys (and their victims) to learn from the experience than they are with punishing them. In the same light, law enforcement ought not to be involved at all8212;we have a criminal justice system to protect society from criminals, not children from themselves.

If authorities prosecuted me for some of the serious mistakes I made during my childhood, I would currently be out at the Utah State Prison, sharing a cell with most of the kids I grew up with. (Be honest, you’d probably be up there with us too, right? Be honest…I thought so…) Instead, I was fortunate enough to have parents and teachers who took the time to help me learn and grow.

That is, after all, the point.

[email protected]

Aaron Zundel

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