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The 'sexting' revolution


By Mitchell Fiandt



“Sexting” has become a hot-button issue in the growing divide between parents, their kids and the use of technology. Parents are oblivious more often than not when it comes to how their children are “socializing.”

Before texting it was instant messaging, emails or just plain phone calls. Now, it’s incredibly convenient — since our phones are usually always with us — to simply
“sext.”        

Oh, the things that technology has provided us to fill the void.

It’s funny that now, six years after my generation of youths had experienced “sexting” in some form before the age of eighteen, that parents, administrators and even police, are just now realizing what kids can do with their phones.

Today, the average age of a child getting their first cell phone is 8. If 8 years old is the average, then those kids are going to learn, see and hear about things sooner than kids without cell phones and computers. In the digital age, things can spread incredibly fast.

It doesn’t shock me that “sexting” has become an issue in schools, in that it’s a viable way to show your sexual status. As Rick Peters, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney, stated, “It’s an electronic hickey.” It’s also a way to fire ammunition against  somebody.

In a recent New York Times article, “sexting” has been addressed to target viral harassment and child pornography. Three eighth-graders were arraigned by a judge and sent to juvenile detention for a night after sending a mass photo-text of a nude girl from their school. Ever since this hit the press, there have been new cautionary measures against “sexting,” including discussions about it in classrooms.

But “sexting” won’t go away in schools just because educators are informing kids about the potential Class C felonies that can be attached to it. We are a generation that has our phones attached to our hips. And we are increasingly a generation distanced from personal contact. Plus “sexting” is like digital foreplay that doesn’t involve having to move much or go anywhere. It is the lazy way of getting it on.

“One in five teens admitted to sexting,” a Common Sense Media poll revealed.

I bet it’s happening right now: Somewhere in the United States a teenager is sending a risqué picture-text to a boy or girl they’re interested in, and often it’s because they feel pressured to.

A CosmoGirl study states that, “38 percent of teens say exchanging sexy content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely.”

Because “sexting” lacks any physical touching, and because it’s so easy, teens feel OK with doing it.

“Sexting” is now like the new second base, more like second base and a half, right after making out.

But if parents and educators want to monitor how kids are using social networking, first they have to be aware that there is a dark side to the cyber-social realm, including possible illegal activity and mental health risks, that kids typically aren’t aware of.

Obviously, better awareness can be raised with better parental involvement in their children’s social lives.

However, parents have to also keep up with the pros and cons of how social media impacts their kids.

­— mfiandt@indiana.edu

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