Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Teen Sexting- the Harsh Reality

If you have a teenager (or if you ARE a teen), please take a few minutes and read this New York Times article: A Girl's Nude Photo, and Altered Lives The gist of the story is that an 8th grade girl sent a nude photo of herself to her 8th grade boyfriend on her cellphone. After they broke up, that boy forwarded the picture to another girl, who labeled it rudely and passed it to her contacts, encouraging every recipient to pass it on. Within hours, this naked photo was seen by thousands of people, including everyone at their school and numerous other schools as well as off into cyberspace.

As a parent, I can only begin to imagine the devastation. Three children were arrested and prosecuted, and could have been held for child pornography charges, complete with the permanent label of sex offender. All this in 8th grade- age 14. How does this happen?

I regularly speak to adolescents about sexually transmitted diseases. Regardless of their social, economic and religious status, what they tell me is that oral sex is NBD- no big deal -(90%) and anal sex isn't really either (50%). They don't "count" these activities as "real sex" and are unaware that these activities are risky for virtually every sexually transmittable disease- especially herpes. While the 40-plus crowd is gasping, let me rephrase- adolescents are very, very desensitized to sexual issues.

As such, it doesn't shock me that sexting (sending sexually explicit messages and/or pictures) is increasing. With that feeling of privacy and anonymity that an electronic device instills, combined with sexual acts being NBD, why wouldn't they feel comfortable sending these messages?

As parents, we have to deal with our own discomfort on the subject, and start having frank discussions with our kids about ALL forms of sexual intimacy- including oral sex, anal sex, and sexting. Please note that I am not saying you can't choose to promote abstinence based on your faith. I AM saying that if you define sex as traditional intercourse, you are leaving the door wide open for these other forms of intimacy...and the kids are walking right through that door with full belief that they are maintaining their virginity.
This is exactly why I wrote Seductive Delusions, which shares stories of "good kids" catching STDs, often despite their "virginity".

BOTTOM LINE: Educate yourself first, then push aside your embarrassment and start talking with your teen.

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