by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Teens across the nation are participating in ever larger numbers in a trend called “sexting” where they take nude photos of themselves, then send them to others on their cell phones or post them online. Some say they do it as a joke; others claim it’s just another way to get a date.
According to a report on Cincinnati.com, a study was released last month by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com that found 20 percent of teens have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves. The teens who engaged in this activity said they sent their photos to boyfriends or girlfriends, while others said they sent the material to those they want to date or hook up with, or to someone they only know online.
The study also showed that 44 percent of teens say it’s common for these sexually explicit images and text messages to be shared with people other than the intended recipient.
High school administrators from the Cincinnati area said they believe that at any given moment, more than 2/3 of their students’ cell phones contain graphic images of another student.
Many participate, but not all teens think it’s a good idea. “When a guy gets a picture like that, he’s not just going to keep it between him and the girl,” said Taylor McCleod, 17, a Withrow University High School senior from Ohio who serves as a teen leader for the Postponing Sexual Involvement program. “And He’s going to take that and show every guy that knows that girl. And every time somebody looks at her, it’s going to be a loss of respect for her.”
Unfortunately, many of these teens don’t think of the possible ramifications of sending these photos until it’s too late. Consequences can range from humiliation to losing out on jobs to going to court. Experts say some teens have lost scholarships and worse because of what they posted on Web sites.
“They think, ‘I have the right to decide what’s best for me,’” said Jim Brown, school resource officer at Glen Este High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. “The next thing you know, it’s on YouTube, and you become an international star because you’re exposing part of your body. . . . Then, they want to retrieve their good reputation, and they can’t.”
As a result, many kids have “wised up,” but not in the way we would hope. Instead of making the right decision and refraining from taking the photos in the first place, they’re simply taking photos of body parts without faces to avoid detection.
Why are so many young people willing to take such risks?
Besides peer pressure, the practice is provoked by what’s considered acceptable in this culture, said Daniel Breyer, chief deputy prosecutor in Clermont County, Ohio, who cited videos such as “Girls Gone Wild.”
“What is acceptable behavior in our country has just gone through the floor,” he said.
Christopher Kraus, director of the Postponing Sexual Involvement program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said that in his 20 years of working in adolescent medicine at the hospital, he’s yet to see a teenage trend that does not mirror a larger adult trend.
“Adolescent sexuality is part of normal human development,” Kraus said. “Teens are trying to figure out how to express their sexuality appropriately. They are learning, and they are learning from adults.”
Meanwhile, Brown said parents need to pay attention to their kids’ use of technology. “It’s ‘Kids Gone Wild,’ with technology being provided by the parents,” he said.
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