Wednesday, February 11, 2009


If you caught this MSNBC feature, you know they're calling what kids do nowadays sexting; i.e. sending nude or suggestive pics of each other on their cellphones via text message. I call it pornography, as did the police in a New Jersey town who arrested not just the sixth grade girls who texted pictures of their "attributes" but the ninth grade male recipients who got them and used them as trading cards. If these students were a decade older, they would be looking at serious legal charges that might not go away.

Young people live in an era of redefinition. Sexual harassment in schools (snapping a girl's bra, commenting on her figure, homophobia, teasing and taunting boys as "gay" if they look or act slightly effiminate) falls under the rubric of bullying and warrants a reprimand or perhaps suspension. Try the same thing twenty years later in the workplace and it's called "fired." No wonder kids are confused about what's acceptable and what's not.

Adolescents by nature do not think in terms of consequences. If it seems sexy to send a picture of your newly blossomed breasts to an older boy, a click of the "Send" button makes it happen. So what if that boy shares it with his soccer team who share it with their best buddies and so on?

Sure, I know having a cellphone gives parents the sense their kids are safe, but somehow generations of children have managed to survive without them. (Learning the basic rules for safety will stand you in better stead throughout a lifetime than a cellphone that can be dropped, lost, out of juice, or in an area of poor reception, anyway.) Before you hand over that little gadget and turn your child loose with it, look for signs of responsibility and maturity. Set up rules and stick to them, even if it inconveniences you.

After all, who knows what an adolescent is setting him or herself up for when those nude pictures or provocative messages go circulating out into the wide world?

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