A couple of weeks ago, local news stations reported that a group of middle school girls from a local town sent topless photos of themselves to another student who then sold the pictures and posted them online. It’s bad enough that schools get involved in these private matters but now the media?
Do you remember Anthony Weiner, the congressman who became infamous because of his sexting scandal last year? His face, and ahem…naked parts, were plastered online and flashed on every news program in the country. I can remember feeling uncomfortable watching the news around that time with my daughters in the room. I mean, no teenage girl should have to see that, right? Thing is, they probably knew more about sexting that I did. We’ve since had a few discussions about sexting and about the consequences of it — all of which they loved (insert sarcasm).
Unfortunately, my town has had its fair share of sexting scandals, as I’m sure every town has. And I get that it’s shocking, but it’s not news. What’s worse is that by making these scandals public the kids, and parents, in these situations face humiliating consequences like loss of friends, judgment, and unnecessary scrutiny. Some have even committed suicide. I think a much better approach would be to educate the kids rather than punish or humiliate them.
For Weiner, the sexting was scandalous because he was married. If he hadn’t been married, I’m not sure the story would have had as much traction as it did. I mean, who cares if two consenting adults want to exchange naked pictures of themselves? Well, there’s a thought, who cares of two consenting teens want to exchange naked pictures of themselves? You can argue that it’s wrong that teens engage in this behavior, but is it really any of your business? I’m not condoning the behavior but simply saying that what happens between teens should be a matter between teens, and maybe their parents.
We all know that when an adult has sex with a minor that it’s punishable by law, right? However, when two minors engage in sex with each other, no one is prosecuted or sent to jail, and it certainly doesn’t make the evening news. So why would sexting be any different? I realize that things get sticky when one of the consenting people forwards off the photo to someone else or worse, sells it, but educating our kids is the only way to stop it.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want read by millions.” Well, the same goes for pictures. Tweens and teens may not fully understand the concept of keeping private things private (I’m certain that most adults don’t either), so is it fair that we punish them for their ignorance/innocence?
According to the website DoSomething.org: Teenage girls have a few reasons for sexting — 40 percent do it as a joke, 34 percent do it to feel sexy, and 12 percent feel pressured to do it. Those statistics are rather shocking. I think we all want to believe that any teenage girl who sends a naked picture of herself to a boy is doing it under pressure. This way we can blame someone (the boy). Or, we want to believe that she feels that it is the way to get a boy to like her, which then we could blame her lack of self-esteem. While those may be the cases sometimes, the stats from DoSomething.org reveal otherwise. They are doing it because they think it’s funny and that only proves their naiveté.
Let’s face it, they are doing what generations of kids before them have done, which is engage in sexual foreplay. It’s just that now, like everything else, it happens virtually rather than in person — and if they aren’t careful, everyone can see it.
The reality is kids make mistakes, even the “good ones.” Not all mistakes, especially those made by teens, should be made public or broadcast on the news. Suspending kids from school, or from participating in sports or graduation, or even expelling them for things they are doing in the privacy of their own homes is erroneous. Unless the picture was taken in a school, administrators, the media, and law enforcement should stay out of it and let the parents and kids deal with it privately.
We should be teaching our kids about responsible online behavior, how to honor themselves and their bodies, and tell them that sometimes the mantra “trust no one” is something to live by — especially when it comes to naked pictures. Teens and sexting is an issue that we should all discuss with each other and with our children, but it definitely isn’t a criminal one nor a public one.
By Kathy Sloan – baystateparent.com