Hot Topic #1: Sexting

“We are free to choose our paths, but we can’t choose the consequences that come with them.”

~Sean Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens


I like writing about hot-button issues. I’ve found that my Commentary posts tend to be a lot longer than any other category on this wonderful blog, and I’m pleased with myself. I like to constantly challenge myself in my writing.

I plan to write about more subjects like this, and more often.

More to come.


The article that sparked this piece comes from the Rochester area of Michigan. You can read the full article here.

When I first read the article, I was a bit dumbfounded.

If you don’t know what sexting is, here is the general definition:

sext 
verb
  1. send (someone) sexually explicit photographs or messages via cell phone.
    “older teens are more likely to engage in sexting than their younger counterparts”

The concept/thought behind it varies slightly, at least according to Urban Dictionary:

v: the act of text messaging someone in the hopes of having a sexual encounter with them later; initially casual, transitioning into highly suggestive and even sexually explicit
In a sentence: “He keeps sexting me saying how hard he is and how much he wants to tap my ass,” Cindy said massaging her breasts unconsciously. 
Sexting in action:
Nancy: “Wut do u want?”
Bob: “Cum over to my place now.”
Nancy: “Is NE1 else there?”
Bob: “No. I need to c u.”
Nancy: “K. Will b there soon.”


Both interpretations that you just read are equally disturbing. Taking sexually suggestive pictures is certainly nothing new. But the introduction of camera phones and texting changed the game.

But it’s not a game – There are rarely any winners here.

I’m particularly fascinated by this article because of the legal standpoint, as well as the potential implications/consequences for these 31 juveniles – 24 girls and seven boys, who all happen to be under the age of 17. Some of these children are in middle school!

Here’s where I will reiterate the “innocent until proven guilty” mantra. The author of the article was ethical and professional in stating, in the first very first sentence, the word “allegedly.” This is so important. I tip my journalism hat to you.


The potential charges are serious.

“These teenagers could be charged with possessing, manufacturing, distributing and receiving child pornography,” [defense attorney Shannon] Smith said. “These are 20-year felonies, seven-year felonies and four-year felonies.”

If you were a teenager, or even a preteen (since some of the accused are in MIDDLE SCHOOL), how would you feel if those charges were read to you?

Moreover, what about the parents? Teachers? Siblings? Families? How would they feel if their self-proclaimed angel or sports superstar was labeled this way?

I’d be sick. My child, my son or daughter, charged with child pornography?

I’m sick to my stomach as I write this.


I’m going to shift the focus on the parents for a hot second, and I’m using as much restraint as I can.


Wait.

Never mind.

This is important.

I’m not holding back. You’ve been warned.


WHEN DID IT BECOME OKAY FOR YOU TO HAND YOUR CHILD THE EQUIVALENT OF AN UNLIMITED ADULT PLAYGROUND?!?!??!

You are your child’s protector, one of the few people who has complete control over their life for 18 years. You are supposed to let them explore their world, but at the same time, you are responsible for setting something called BOUNDARIES!

It’s perfectly normal for kids to push their limits and their envelopes.

However, your job, as a responsible parent, is to be the enforcer of those limits and envelopes. If they are pushed or crossed, you are responsible for providing the lessons learned and the appropriate punishment. You have that job until they legally become an adult – and that doesn’t happen until the day they turn 18.

This may be a slight contradiction – No one should tell you how to raise your children. You raise them as you see fit.

However, what I am referring to and/or promoting is COMMON SENSE.


Everyone makes mistakes. We are all human.

But my philosophy and/or stance on sexting, and responsibility in general, comes from an age-old saying:

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ~Benjamin Franklin

What I mean by this is simple – If you don’t want your kid/teen to get into serious trouble for sexting, at least while they’re under your roof …

DAMN IT, DON’T GIVE THEM A SMARTPHONE!

-or-

DON’T GIVE THEM A PHONE WITH A CAMERA!


I immediately starting writing this post after I finished reading the article. I’m ANGRY about this. Sexting is one of those things that is now mainstream because it’s happening ALL THE TIME!

The article ends with a similar observation: “Sexting isn’t isolated to the Rochester area, according to Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, who told WXYZ that she investigates similar cases in county schools every week. She makes charging decisions on a case-by-case basis, with more severe charges reserved for cases that involved malice.”

I can’t imagine what every K-12 school in America deals with regarding sexting every day. I’m sure that this epidemic has infiltrated the elementary schools as well, because I’ve seen 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds with iPhones or generic camera-phones in the Sunday school classes that I’ve taught since high school.


” … more severe charges reserved for cases that involved malice.”

Malice?

I shudder at the thought.


Switching to the legal side for a minute.

In the article, the defense attorney commented that the students shouldn’t be charged with felonies, but rather receive a serious wake-up call.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

If I were a parent of one of these children (and I am determined NOT TO BE ONE, for all that I am worth) – I would let them face the music. Almost insist that my child be charged with a felony.

I would want as many lessons taught to my child as possible because of this experience. Let them and/or help them realize, or start to truly understand, that every single action that they make has a consequence. Every single one.

I would stand behind my children, but I would not give in. I would not condone this atrocious behavior. I would not plead with the authorities to reduce the charges. I would not any sides; I would remain as neutral as possible. They got themselves in this mess and I want to watch them get out of it.

ON THEIR OWN.

To me, “standing behind them” means support. I would want to be there in a physical, emotional, spiritual sense. I would want to be there for them through this experience.

But I would not come to their aid, at least not immediately. They got themselves in this mess, and I want them to try to get out of the muck and mire themselves first.


However, I am determined not to be one of those parents.

I received my first cell phone when I was 14-years-old. No built-in camera. No texting plan. I was only allowed to store my classmates’ numbers to call them for school-related matters (i.e., questions about homework assignments, study sessions, how to get my work if I was out sick, etc.).

It looked a lot like this:

Photo Credit: s4.zetaboards.com

Photo Credit: s4.zetaboards.com

The main (basically the only) reason I received it was because I was in a magnet program and my high school was 15 miles away from my house. If I missed the bus, I could use the phone to call Mom, Dad, or a trusted family friend to come pick me up.

Mom and Dad have said that if I had not participated in said magnet program, I wouldn’t have gotten a cell phone of my own until I had started driving.

Back then (circa 2003), there were limited smartphones – Primarily PDAs. And, no, I’m not talking about public affection! Nokia was the top-selling manufacturer. There were camera phones, but the iPhone was just a gleam in Apple’s eye.

In fact, I have only had one smartphone in my life. And I got it because my company provided it.

Do I like my iPhone? Absolutely.

Do I want one for my personal use?

NOPE.

I have a basic LG “slide” phone that’s well over two years old now, which I thought was the coolest thing back in college. I remember the day I called my dad, informing him that my Motorola RAZR was on its last legs, and the only request I had in a new phone was a “full keyboard” so that texting would be easier for me, as a member of the college newspaper staff.

Yes, you read that correctly. I did not text until I was in college.


I have never taken, nor sent, photos of a sexual nature. I never plan to do so.

I honestly can’t say the same for sexual messages, but I’m not one for spreading things around.

I talk openly about sex and my sexuality only with people who have earned my trust, but I respect this little thing called privacy to the nth degree – Both mine and others who do/have confide(d) in me.

As someone who has been a victim of privacy invasion, I know what it feels like to be violated.

Moreover, there are a lot of places where private matters shouldn’t be shared. Here’s looking at you, Facebook. Twitter. Vine. Snapchat. YouTube. Instagram.

Shall I continue?


I’m not out to change the world, although that would be extremely gratifying.

I just wanted to say my piece and all of my thoughts/feelings/opinions.

I’m grateful that I live in a country that, for the most part, allows me freedom of speech.


I’m very curious to hear comments from my readers! I want a post like this to help start a conversation among my readers and/or followers. I hope to hear from some of you!

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

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