In keeping with the regular theme of lighter Friday posts, I have found two rather EXCELLENT opinion pieces/essays on the sexting phenomenon and the public’s craze with it…
The bottom line is that it’s just one more reason parents need to monitor what their kids are doing online and with the technology we are giving them. There isn’t much of a need to run and create a law – laws never actually stop people from doing things. But there is a need for parents to go back to parenting of the past – that means being stern, being strong, and not putting your child’s “self esteem” first. Discipline is necessary. They will develop self esteem, you can’t give it to them; it’s not a quality that can be received.
So don’t give them total freedom and don’t always let them do what they want. I always say that shows like Nanny 911 and Super Nanny wouldn’t have been possible 30 years ago. It’s today’s lackluster, passive parenting that has given kids the upper hand. Kids that have the upper hand at home have no fear off discipline. They have no principal of doing “right.” Instead, they just do whatever they want. Eventually, that leads to taking naked pictures with the cell phone their parents gave them because they can’t computer and/or stop for a second and say to themselves, “wait a minute… is this ‘right’”?
Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox. Have a great weekend, check these stories out and remember: if every parent started monitoring their child’s internet activity with PC Pandora, Monday would be a much better day.
Sexting — teens sending sexually explicit photos of themselves via cell phones — has become the latest in a line of highly charged issues involving kids and the internet. A recent survey on sexting has claimed that one in five teens have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves, although at least one academic has questioned this finding.
What is certain is that the media has jumped on this potentially explosive phenomenon with banner headlines and urgent commentary. And now there is a call for a new law from the parents of a teen who took her life following a sexting incident earlier this year. Jessica Logan, 18, was a pretty, vivacious, outgoing high school student. Last year she sent a nude picture of herself to her then boyfriend who promptly forwarded it on to a group of girls after he and Jessica split up. What had been intended as private and intimate became public and the source of a barrage of humiliating e-mails, texts and slurs. The cyber-bullying, in this case, lead, tragically, to Jessica taking her own life.
Understandably, Cynthia Logan, Jessica’s mother, has launched a national campaign to call for a law to deal with sexting and to warn teens and young people about the dangers of taking and sending sexualized pictures of themselves. While it is clear that there is an urgent and compelling case to be made for a national education campaign to steer kids away from over exposing themselves online, it is less certain what new law could be drafted to deal with this issue.
The central problem with this and similar cases is that the victim knowingly created the very images later used to bully, harass and humiliate her, once they had been distributed by her trusted “friend.” It has been argued that girls and young women are put under huge peer pressure by boys to send them nude shots of themselves. Others simply see this as an outgrowth of our highly sexualized culture, with sexual themes being ever present in movies, TV and music. Disturbingly, some teens see this as “cool” or “just a bit of fun,” oblivious of the consequences, emotionally, socially and in the eyes of the law.
There are some states that are seeking to “make a point” by actively prosecuting cases of sexting using child pornography laws to arrest and charge the kids for producing, distributing and possession of these images. Having been so charged, these young people are then put on the Registered Sexual Offenders list with all the life-long ramifications that designation has. But these laws were put in place to punish adult predators from sexually abusing kids and to equate sexting with one of the most vile and reprehensible acts in our society is a huge overreaction. It would be better to follow the UK model of cautioning the kids involved and promoting counseling and community service as a way to sanction them — not to put them in jail and throw away the key.
It remains to be seen if sexting is as prevalent and widespread as some are now suggesting. Even if the figure is as high as one in five, the good news is that 80%, or the vast majority of kids are not acting out in this way. Rather than arresting, expelling or suspending our way out of this problem, it would be good to begin an urgent dialogue with our own kids about this and to point out the repercussions of sexting. And we should encourage our teens, in what is known as the “social norms” approach, to identify with the four in five and to act responsibly and delete the photos when they receive them. To honor the memory of Jessica, we should use her tragic case as a teaching moment and begin a dialogue with our kids about the unintended consequences of going too far online.
No one wants to see a beautiful 18-year-old girl commit suicide. No one wants to make any worse the pain that surviving family members feel. No one wants to make light of the situation that causes a child or young person to chose suicide, either. But high emotion makes for bad laws and this is no exception.
Last year, Jessica Logan imagined that she was sending a nude cell-phone photo of herself only to her new boyfriend. But he was not as circumspect as she might have hoped passing the salacious picture to his friends, and they to theirs, until it surged through some seven Cincinnati high schools.
It wasn’t long before Jessica was the butt of jokes and the target of epithets like “slut” and “porn queen.“ The ribbing shook her so hard that she hanged herself in her bedroom last July.
And now, parents Albert and Cynthia Logan want new laws passed to somehow stop “sexting” of nude or half nude photos from one teen’s cell-phone to another. Unfortunately, such laws are just a bad idea. They will do nothing to stop the low-born practice while only piling more strangling regulations on the business community as well as giving government and police officials even more intrusive powers into our individual lives.
There is nothing wrong with trying to convince kids that emailing nude photos of themselves is not a good idea, of course, and the Logan’s are undertaking that effort. But the there-ought-to-be-a-law mentality is not effective here, as it isn’t in most cases on such emotional issues.
Absurdly, the Logans are agitating to place more onus on schools for stopping this new age problem of “cyberbullying” and “sexting.“
“Schools need to understand our kids are targeting each other and how technology is being used as a weapon,“ Aftab said. “None of them (the schools) know what to do. Many of them … think it’s not their problem. They want to close their eyes and put fingers in their ears, saying it’s a home issue.“
Sorry, parents, but if your children are sending nude cell-phone photos of themselves to each other, the solution is not to force schools to get involved. The solution is to take away the darn cell-phone!
Sadly, what we have here is not a lack of laws, but a crass culture.
A national study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy revealed that 1 in 5 teen girls or 22 percent say they have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude images online of themselves.
Salacious attitudes are instilled in kids by raunchy entertainment, coarse advertising and the non-chalant attitude of parents to these influences. It needs to be pointed out that this sad suicide was precipitated in the first place by the girl sending the nude photo to a boyfriend she only had been dating for two months. Sadly, this young girl was not instilled with an attitude of propriety in her behavior. Just as sadly, she is not alone. Too many of our children never seem to be told what behavior is unacceptable in our country today.
There is a reason, though, that this poor child was so hard hit by the taunting she was confronted with. We lack a sense of shame in our culture and when it hits it is like a ton of bricks that many don’t quite understand. Young Jessica suddenly found herself with a bad reputation, deserved or no, because of her own actions.
“I watched her get kicked out of maybe three or four parties over the summer just for having ‘a reputation,‘ “ said Steven Arnett, a friend of hers who graduated last year from Moeller High School.
This is a sad, sad object lesson for other kids imagining there are no consequences for sending salacious photos of themselves all across the Internet. There ARE consequences to your actions. This must be learned by our youth but it is a lesson that is missing from society today.
Unfortunately, just the wrong sort of lesson is being promulgated by teachers, lawmakers and these parents with this incident.
“It is a form of bullying, and that is something we cannot tolerate. The difficulty is stopping it. … That’s why we stress with our kids that the moment you push ‘send,‘ the damage is done.“ (said Sycamore Superintendent Adrienne James)
All the onus put on “the bullying” and none put on the person that sent the nude photo to begin with is simply not a complete lesson. The better lesson is to focus equally on both the sender and the bullies, not just the bullies.
The wrap up is typical of the wrong headed emphasis we too often place on the situations that confront us in our modern society.
Albert and Cynthia Logan have gone public with Jessie’s story, hoping to change vague state laws that don’t hold anyone accountable for sexting. They also want to warn kids about what can happen when nude cell-phone photos are shared.
“We want a bill passed,“ Cynthia Logan said.
“It’s a national epidemic. Nobody is doing anything – no schools, no police officers, no adults, no attorneys, no one.“
It isn’t the laws that are the problem. Its the overindulgence of kid’s “self esteem,“ a complete lack of moral instruction, a coarsening of our society, and a corresponding assumption by too many parents that everyone else should be responsible for their own children’s behavior.
Again, it is horrendous that this beautiful young woman took her own life over this embarrassment. But it is the lack of imagining that actions have consequences, that embarrassment is a result, that reputations can be destroyed with casual actions little thought out, that all too often is a lesson learned too late.
It isn’t only the Logan’s fault. There is little doubt that they loved their daughter. But this incident is indicative of some major errors in our society that needs to be fixed. If it isn’t, these heart-wrenching incidents will grow until the total breakdown of society is complete and no “law” will stop it.
Warner Todd Huston