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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?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  December 17, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Sex , Teens  
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Why is not allowing cell phones "unrealistic"? It's as if parents give cell phones to their kids simply because parents allow their kids to have cell phones. It's a bizarre circular logic and the fact that your only response to the suggestion of not allowing kids to have cell phones is to say that it is "unrealistic" shows that the real problem is parents without the spines to stand up to their kids' demands.

Also, you say you are perplexed that there is a subset of teens interested in looking at naked pictures of their friends or strangers. But, really, what should be far more perplexing is that there is a subset of kids/teens who TAKE PICTURES OF THEMSELVES NAKED AND THEN SEND THEM TO FRIENDS OR SIGNIFICANT OTHERS. To me, that is far more perplexing and is the larger issue that should be addressed.

Take, for example, the recent sad case of the girl in Florida who killed herself after sending nude pictures of herself and then getting bullied because of it. What many people do not realize is that this was not the first time she had sent such pictures. She had done it before and it was discovered by her parents and school. Yet she did it again later. THAT is what should be so perplexing to people.

Posted by: rlalumiere | December 17, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm confused. The author was horrified by the David Cassidy cover, but she bought the magazine anyway?

Posted by: writinron | December 17, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I think teens need to be aware of the ramifications of having nude pictures of themselves taken under any circumstances. That said, this whole thing is being overblown. And yes Jennifer things have changes a whole lot in 30 years (I am even older than you based on the math). 30 years ago a woman, let alone a teen girl, was suppose to save herself for marriage and living together was what "hippies" did. Threes Company was scandalous because of one man and two women living together (not even sexually), today TV characters have sex all over the place even "prissy" roles like Monica in Friends... Oh and have you ever heard of Sex in the City? Imagine that in 1979! The world has changed and attitudes about sex have changed. Sexting is the equivalent of reading a Playboy or playing "post-office" or similar sex exploration games. When you were a teenager would it have surprised you that 1 in 7 of your fellow teens had seen another peer of the opposite sex partially or fully naked? I think that the core problem here is that we are a sexually repressed society. I grew up in Europe for part of my teen years and it was not uncommon for a teen female at the beach to go topless, it did not create a frenzy amongst any of the European kids but you certainly could tell the American in the crowd by their behavior. OK so all that said there certainly are downsides to sexting and violations of trust. Teens simply need to realize that once that photo is out there it can end up anywhere and everywhere. If you do not want your parents, grandparents, preacher or anyone to see naked pictures of yourself do not take them (cell phone, camera or however). I think parents should let their children know about the ramifications, because they are serious.

Posted by: rcc_2000 | December 17, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I think this article reveals more about the author than the issue of "sexting." If she was having sex with someone as a teenager, I doubt she would have been terribly disturbed to see provocative photos of that same individual. 90% of the time that is what "sexting" is. High schoolers are not running around sending out nude photos of themselves to their phone books as a matter of course as this author seems to imply and issues of teenage sexual activity can be debated another day. Not to say the ramifications of sexting cannot be serious, but I am a bit surprised and amused at the shock and outrage that "sexting" has elicited in the media.

Posted by: DCatOSU | December 17, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The topic of sex and youngsters continues to be a crazy quilt of contradictions and anguish. I don't pretend to have any answers as someone in their 6th decade, although I sometimes wish I was young enough to be one of the teeny cell phone crowd.

If sexting is controversial, what about tattoos? Now That is something I find disturbing in our youth.

Posted by: Spectator | December 17, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

"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?"


Get over it.

Posted by: PSmith98 | December 17, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The younger generation gives me hope.

The older generation power-structure that is "regretfully" turning kids into felons and lifelong "registered sex offenders" for this made-up crime infuriates me beyond words.

Posted by: DupontJay | December 17, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Old fogey? I'll say. I grew up in the 50's/60's, and we hid girlie magazines in our closets, and then shared them with our friends. It's entirely normal for kids, once the hormones start raging, to be interested in looking at nude pictures - of friends, of strangers, of anyone who will let you look. This is not abnormal. Abnormal is pretending the opposite, and the writer of this column wants to.

Posted by: miffedone | December 17, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

You see somebody naked and you say "Who is that man?"

You try so hard but you don't understand...

what you'll say when you get home.

Because something is happening but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

--faye kane, latter-day Zarathustra
Read more of my smartmouth opinions at

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | December 18, 2009 1:53 AM | Report abuse

Now wait, this has GOT to be a joke. Lemme get this straight:

You saw THIS picture of David Cassidy:
which could have been taken on any public beach in 1955, and you feel you have to report that kind of smutty filth to your parents?

What kind of sick parents raised you, anyway?

When your father marched into the record store and lambasted the staff for allowing a kid to buy pornography, he was probably laughed at.

He was lucky; he should have been punched out and thrown into the street.

The culture war of freedom and happiness vs. guilt and fear was fought in the sixties, and your side lost.

Now STFU, go away, and stop harassing innocent children.

--faye kane, idiot savant
Read more of my smartmouth opinions at

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | December 18, 2009 2:14 AM | Report abuse

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