Sexty Thoughts: Pondering teen sexting

Teen texting image courtesy Flickr user Zoe

Why do teens sext? Image via Flickr.

The cover of the November 2014 issue of The Atlantic is a provocative article about “Why Kids Sext”. I’m only 26, but after reading it I realized that there are some large differences between my generation and the next. This is not the naughty texts or anonymous instant messaging I saw in high school – we’re talking nude or nearly nude pics :

But pretty soon this got to be a problem. Within an hour, the deputies realized just how common the sharing of nude pictures was at the school. “The boys kept telling us, ‘It’s nothing unusual. It happens all the time,’ ” Lowe recalls. Every time someone they were interviewing mentioned another kid who might have naked pictures on his or her phone, they had to call that kid in for an interview. After just a couple of days, the deputies had filled multiple evidence bins with phones, and they couldn’t see an end to it. Fears of a cabal got replaced by a more mundane concern: what to do with “hundreds of damned phones. I told the deputies, ‘We got to draw the line somewhere or we’re going to end up talking to every teenager in the damned county!’ ” Nor did the problem stop at the county’s borders. Several boys, in an effort to convince Lowe that they hadn’t been doing anything rare or deviant, showed him that he could type the hashtag symbol (#) into Instagram followed by the name of pretty much any nearby county and then thots, and find a similar account.

So, why do kids sext? According to the article, the reasons sound pretty typical: peer pressure, the need for acceptance, and exploring budding sexuality. As a teacher, it leaves me reeling –  how should I respond to this? Young people are still developing their understanding of the world around them. Oftentimes they’re barely aware of just how much they are influenced by power and relationship dynamics, nor have they yet developed an understanding of what boundaries are, or why they are important. Beyond that, the people they should be talking with about sex and sexuality, parents or trustworthy adults who’ve actually wrestled with these issues, too often overreact . That may work for certain situations and ages, but teenagers who are old enough to think critically about sexuality merit a better approach.

What might a better approach look like? Maybe something akin to the campaign mentioned in the sexting article from The Atlantic: The Give It a Ponder Campaign by LG. The focus of the campaign, which features both print ads and tv commercials, is to get youth to think before they text. It’s funny enough and a great conversation starter, but the question still remains. Why do kids sext? Give it a ponder and let us know what you think in the comments below:

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Teen texting image courtesy Flickr user Zoe, found here.

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