- There was a time when a plain and simple cellular telephone was somewhat of a status symbol. These days, in many peer groups any teen without the ‘in’ model popular with his crowd the risk of being shunted out of it… at least until he gets one.
Be that as it may, some other groups are more interested in the nitty-gritty… that is, the functions of which the apparatus is capable.
The infinite number of applications and games it carries, the access to the Internet, a GPS and instant translation into Klingon… all these, however, pale into insignificance when one has a camera…and decides to use it for texting.
Like alcohol, nicotine, and pornography, which it may sometimes resemble, sexting has become a popular vice (I hesitate to call it “pastime”) with teens today.
As witnessed by a recent set of photographs on Reddit, teens seem to be obsessed with their image – to the extent of taking selfies at funerals. But sometimes, this desire to show odd one’s beauty / body shape becomes an obsession. It puts them, or so they think, on the same level as celebrities who do it… forgetting that in a few years’ time, prospective employers will be haunting their search engines for clues as to the younger-days behaviour of hob applicants.
Add to this the pressure imposed upon teens by their so-called ‘friends’ of either gender, and you have the perfect recipe for the risky behaviour involved.
The cherry on the cake is the wanton behaviour of ‘teen idols’ who are supposed to be there as role models…but end up as caricatures of themselves through their antics and anti-social behaviour, most probably calculated to garner them column space in the press. The irony is that most of the celebrities who ‘undress for their pictures’ are on their way out, though they desperately want to be on their way up.
However worldly-wise they think they are, teens are too young to realise that all three factors contribute to the epidemic of selfies that somehow become sexting just this side of porn. Tell them that they are breaking the law, and they will laugh… because they are sending risqué photographs of themselves to others “of their own free will”.
Parents who assume that their teens can do no wrong – and who, moreover, boast that they have offspring as near enough perfect as does not matter, would do well to inform themselves of the possible consequences of this rampant craze in which photographs, messages or even video clips are sent or perhaps swapped.
Some parents cannot imagine that behaviour involving a vulnerable, semi-naked teen and a camera-phone is on the same level as substance abuse. They cannot understand that they are still responsible for their teens until they become adults.
Some studies maintain that one in three teens has sent or received sexually-charged photographs and / or messages within the last month.
A teen who is sitting in her room, all silent, could be sleeping, studying, reading… or sexting. It has been said that “if you want to keep a secret, keep it to yourself” – and it is the same with any picture a teen uploads on to the Internet. They never know who will end up seeing the photographs, messages or video clips, or whose system will be hacked, and their pictures exposed.
Teen girls may assume it is “fun” and “cool” to be addicted on a physical level. They would never, ever, in a million years, believe that their BBF or the boy who egged them on to do it “…if you live me”, will turn traitor and post their pictures for the world to see.
It is unfortunate that sex education lessons rarely discuss this salient point when talking about “private body” and how the bits that are usually covered by underwear ought to be protected.
Alas, some teens think that showing their assets is all a part of growing up. When their heroines do it, they assume that this adds clout to their arguments that they are no longer babies.
As parents of teenagers, we are duty bound to take care of them – and not because any crimes committed by them will rebound upon us. The problem must be nipped in the bud; teaching a child that she is unique, and precious, and must not demean herself just because someone says so, or because she can do so with impunity, is just not on.
It helps when parents are ‘friends’ of children on social sites, and when teenagers are only allowed state-of-the-art mobile telephones on condition that the parents can check the content at any time.