Is your kid fazed by sexting?
When I was 11 years old, Rolling Stone magazine published an interview with my heartthrob/idol David Cassidy and featured a nude photo of him on its cover. The photo was cropped to stop just a hair -- and I mean that literally -- above Cassidy's groin.
I was mortified, horrified, really upset. So upset that I tearfully told my parents about it. My poor father marched into the Waxie Maxie record store where I'd bought the magazine and lambasted the staff for allowing a kid to make such a purchase.
I've dredged up my long-ago close encounter with David Cassidy's privates as I've read the latest round of news about the phenomenon known as "sexting," in which kids with cell phones send each other nude photos of themselves or others. One recent poll showed that one in seven teens with cellphones had received such images. The occurrence was more common among older teens; younger cell-phone users had largely been spared.
If for no other reason than its possible legal ramifications, sexting should certainly be strongly discouraged. Parents should of course talk to their kids about sexting , and they should take whatever steps they deem fit to prevent their children from being exposed to lewd images.
Not allowing a cell phone would be the obvious way to reduce the likelihood of kids' becoming involved in sexting -- but also would be completely unrealistic for many families, conservative parenting expert John Rosemond's position notwithstanding. But the survey mentioned above shows that when parents imposed limits on the amount of texting their kids were allowed, exposure to sexting was lessened.
What continues to perplex me about sexting -- and here I'll reveal myself as the old fogey that I am -- is that there is some subset of kids out there who seem to think looking at naked pictures of friends and strangers is okay, even fun. Sure, the main participants seem to be older, old enough to be sexually active and likely more mature than I was at 11, when I still loved "The Partridge Family" and thought its star (David Cassidy) would be a nice boy to hold hands with.
Maybe it's a good thing to have young people feel so comfortable with nudity and sex. After all, it is perfectly natural to be interested in other people's bodies; that interest has served humankind well for millennia. So maybe my prudishness was itself a pathology of sorts.
But still I feel sad. Legal issues and the matters of self-esteem that sexting calls into question aside, I just know that sexting would have bothered me terribly when I was a teen. Can it be that kids have changed so much in 30 years that the free exchange of pictures of naked people no longer fazes them? Or is this perhaps something that most kids don't like or want to participate in but that they grin and bear so they're allowed to keep their cell phones and maintain ties with their texting buddies?
I'd like to hear from parents of kids who have acknowledged being exposed to sexting. Is it no big deal? Or is it upsetting?
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