Sexting…have you done it? Before you get all uppity and offended by my question, let me acknowledge for the record that I have engaged in sexting. Please don’t be shocked. I’m certainly of an “age of consent” and it can be fun and spice up any relationship. Besides, aren’t we forever reading in the News about behavior such as this from politicians and others in the limelight? So what’s the problem? Kids, that’s the problem.
The more I delve into research and talking to people involved in helping our youth understand the pitfalls of social media and certain phone apps, the more this subject of sexting arises. Think about it for a moment…you are 14 years old and own a smartphone. You have a crush on a boy in your class. Do you think it would be tempting to send him something “sexy”. Surely, there is no lack of sex talk and innuendo in our evening television shows, video games, magazines, erotic books, movies, etc., etc. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against sex and I am not suggesting that it should disappear from our media. Although I must admit that lately I think sex is being overdone in our television shows, seems raunchy scripts are there simply for the sake of being raunchy which removes a lot of the humor and the classiness of it.
This article from Reuters talks about kids with emotional and behavioral issues are likely to engage in sexting and middle school kids who engage in sexting are more likely to engage in other forms of sexual behavior. Not a shock.
Another study from DoSomething.org tells us that almost a quarter of teens aged 14-17 engage in sexting and about a third of college students. Again, this doesn’t surprise me and, as always, with studies it is those that admit to the activity.
Issue is kids are not consenting adults, they are going through an emotionally challenging time in their lives (as we all remember puberty and all it’s dimensions) and they do not fully understand the impact of sexting, sending nude photographs and engaging in behavior that is frankly, inappropriate for our teens. In addition, they are going to have many “crushes” and do they really understand the ramifications of sending “sex talk” and nude photos through their smartphones? I doubt it.
However, they see it happening everywhere as I previously mentioned so why shouldn’t they engage in it? Here’s where I believe that dialogue between teens and parents is so very important. Everyone is talking these days on; Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Google+ Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. but are we talking to each other at home? They are also engaging in some pretty interesting Apps which can lead to inappropriate or even dangerous outcomes. Check these out. Are we interacting with our kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews or any teenager we are in close contact with and has our trust? Are we opening a dialogue that doesn’t condemn, punish, reprimand, embarrass and humiliate? Probably not if the adults involved are embarrassed to broach the subject with their teen or in denial that “their” child would engage in such behavior.
Let’s get real and honest for a moment. Our American culture fosters sex everywhere. While we watch television, we aren’t “talking” we are watching and witnessing norms that may or may not be appropriate for teenagers, especially those under the age of 16.
I was thinking about Downton Abbey the other day after watching this Sunday might’s episode. I was marveling at how much “talking” went on between the characters. Real talking about personal issues and things that troubled them. Honest, open communication. I started wondering about how we seem to have lost that because we are always in front of some form of technology. This isn’t a cry to go back to “the old way” and I’m not giving up my television, my Facebook, my smartphone or the sexy erotic books I love to read while on the bike at the gym but I am wondering if we couldn’t bring more dialogue into the things we see and actually TALK about them with our youth.
As you know, I am committed to talking to kids, parents, teachers, etc. about how amazing social media can be and how technology has given us the ability to reach anyone, anywhere. The flipside is the need to use platforms such as Flocks.com where we can be assured that the person we think we are communicating with is that person. While Flocks.com won’t change all the “dark sides” of social media, it is a start and from that education I am confident it will flow over to smartphone applications and behavior such as sexting for our youth.