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Why Teens Sext

Did you see "The Tyra Banks Show" on Friday? The episode was all about teen sexting, and the few snippets I've been able to find are enough to make many parents cringe.

On, a video clip shows audience members reading some of the sexual messages that the girls on the show had sent. The women can barely read the messages and many of the words are bleeped out because they are unsuitable for network television.

In the preview snippet of the show, five girls are on stage. Fourteen-year-old Keaton explains her reasons for participating in sexting: "Guys don't talk to you unless you do this. Like I know there are some percent of girls who are extremely gorgeous and they just happen to talk to them, but, I mean, you have to have a little more something."

Not surprising, much of the viewer reaction following the show on the Tyra Web site, talked about how the low self esteem of the girls on the show doesn't pertain to most teenage girls. And some sexters chimed in supporting the practice. Just "listen" to Angie:

"I myself am a teen that has sent sexually suggestive texts & pics of myself to boys and I do regret it. But I am not like the girls on your show. Not all of us who have texted have low self-esteem. I am very confident about my body & I actually think very highly of myself. I think the reason I sent those things were because I feel centuries behind my friends. I'm 15 years old, a freshman in high school & I've only had 2 boyfriends before. I haven't even kissed a boy yet. Most of my friends have boyfriends & have had their first kiss in middle school. I feel like they are moving on & maturing without me. Also I think this is partly the guys fault. Yes, I am the one who sent the pics but some guys just know how to get it out of you. The guy I sent pics to has his ways of manipulation. He is really sweet and charming & like a dream guy. I felt really close to him & could tell him anything. I felt very comfortable sharing my feelings with him. Then, after I sent him the pics, he started to get bored & he moved on. The worst part is that this exact situation has happened before with him & many others girls. Most of which are close friends of mine. One last thing, I dont think adults fully understand this whole thing. My own mom said that she understands, but I can always hear the disappointment in her voice. Just because we have done this does not make us sluts and whores. We are all great girls who made mistakes. And the adults always say that we don't need a guy in our lives"

In addition, the Tyra show showed teen boys and girls talking more about sexting after the show, with one girl explaining that most of the time sexting is a joke, a funny way to "talk about sex or how far we can get a guy to go." The boys, though, saw the images as "slutty," particularly when one girl's image passes from friend to friend, as though the girl "wants anyone."

Missing from much of this discussion was the potential legal ramifications of sexting. But they are being felt in many places. "Police have investigated more than two dozen teens in at least six states this year for sending nude images of themselves in cell phone text messages, which can bring a charge of distributing child pornography. Authorities typically are notified by parents or schools," wrote USA Today earlier this month.

"Since this is a brand new concept, it is one that the laws across the country are trying to figure out what to do," said K. Dane Snowden, the vice president of external and state affairs of CTIA, The Wireless Association. "There are a lot of inconsistencies. ... The legal issues depends on the jurisdiction. Every single one is doing it differently. In some instances, the sheriff or attorney general or prosecutor may say it’s child porn [and prosecute]. Others say it’s not." CTIA has been following this issue for a couple of years, Snowden said. In addition, Snowden said that some jurisdictions are saying parents are responsible for the content on their children's phones and some aren't.

What is your impression of teens who sext? Have your teens admitted to sending or receiving sext messages. Do you feel teens should be prosecuted for sexting?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 23, 2009; 9:45 AM ET  | Category:  Teens
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One idiot kid in my son's middle school sent a very sexual video of himself to a girl he wanted to impress. Apparently, she encouraged him to do this and he decided it was a great idea. The upshot is that the video went around the school and the boy was disciplined via suspension. The worst part for him, though, is that he has already been informed that he will not be allowed to play on the sports teams in high school - and he's apparently a very talented baseball player. Our high school has a strong baseball tradition and many of the kids end up with great scholarships to play ball in college. So this little escapade has cost this boy his reputation and has had a serious impact on his future.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | March 23, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Didn't we do this topic?

Posted by: jezebel3 | March 23, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I am concerned about the legal repercussions of these types of offenses. Having a 15 year old registered as a "sexual offender" for the rest of their life is too severe for this type of crime. Should a kid be prohibited from playing HS sports due to sending a sexual video? Each County and school is going to have different answer.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | March 23, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"So this little escapade has cost this boy his reputation and has had a serious impact on his future."

Well, what did he THINK would happen? Oh, he didn't think, did he?

People pretend that adolecents can't be responsible for their actions. Hold them accountable, and they will be. There's no good reason for anyone to send that sort of things, and it's society's turn to do it's job and punish stupidity.

That is, if there's any common sense left with these kids and their parents.

Posted by: gm123 | March 23, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

It's Tyra banks for goodness sakes! 1) Who really thinks that what she talks about represents a truth in the larger population, 2)her show is all about exploitation and hyper-exaggeration. If it's your kid-tell em not to do it and take the freakin' cell phone away if the persist. This ain't rocket science, it's basic parenting.

Posted by: daplin | March 23, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

should a kid's future be altered for sexting? NO.

nipplegate showed the hysteria surrounding nudity. and this shows the stupidity in applying puritanical standards to modern society.

who was harmed by this embarrassingly juvenile video? someone's sensibilities? let the punishment fit the crime.

were the other kids who forwarded the video punished? please. the whole thing is ridiculous.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | March 23, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

"Well, what did he THINK would happen? Oh, he didn't think, did he?"

No, he didn't think. But before you jump up and wave your banner and declare him irresponsible and support destroying his future, keep in mind that even if he had thought about it, there wasn't much of a precedent set before now. He wasn't sending pictures of someone else (that is clearly wrong), these were pictures of himself and it's very likely he and many others like him didn't think there would be a problem. Apparently this has gone on in many circles for a while. As technology changes the world, these things will crop up and we need to be a little careful in the beginning when dealing with setting down new laws and guidelines. I grew up with one phone in the house and computers were not even an issue. Now, kids are linked electronically every second of the day and share things we would never dream of. Better communication, laws that appropriately address this sort of thing, and better education about the ramifications of certain behaviors is called for. Just use some common sense.

Posted by: singlemom | March 23, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

To Daplin...
Unfortunately, Tyra does represent a huge percentage of the young population. You might not fit her demographic but teens do. And they are sexting. Kids from strong families that have no better sense of the impact of technology than any other.
My child did not know that saving a picture in her phone as part of an "album" was really posting the picture on the internet. The photo was not one that was for wider distribution although thankfully not pornographic. It was an incredibly powerful message to pull up the photo on our home computer for her to see for herself "where her picture" had gone.

Our mantra has become, unless you want it on the front page of the school newspaper for every student, teacher and parent to see, don't do it. There is nothing out there now that can't be reproduced using the technology that is out there. And kids have no sense of how powerful a momentary lapse of judgement changes everything.

Posted by: ugh3 | March 23, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I don't think "Angie" was necessarily speaking in support of sexting. She says she regrets it.

Posted by: websterwalter | March 23, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Kids and teenagers do stupid things all the time. We are talking about sexting and teenagers have been having actual sex for decades, centuries!

Posted by: cheekymonkey | March 23, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

GroovisMaximus61 - I seriously doubt that a middle school could punish somebody through high school sports.

Posted by: BigBubba1 | March 23, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Teens (and tweens) are experimenting with relationships and views about sex and they're bound to push limits at times, otherwise how do they recognize them as limits?
I've had some conversations with 12-yr-old DD about conversations she might have with friends in person and the risk of moving some of those conversations onto the Internet (or onto cell phones -- she doesn't have one of her own yet). She wasn't born knowing these things.
And in terms of testing relational limits, this same DD lovingly called me an "idiot" this weekend and I'm proud to say I didn't blow a gasket and we had a calm conversation about words that may be intended in one way but can be interpreted in another.

Posted by: annenh | March 23, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't it just a year or 2 ago, that the 14 year old girl and her 18 year old boyfriend, killed her parents, because they weren't allowed to date? Then, the police found that the couple had been e-mailing one another sexual photos, and I wondered why parents allowed their teens to have the computer and digital camera in a private space, like the bedroom. Surely the girl wouldn't have sent naked pictures of herself from the family computer in the living room.

Now, within a week, we discuss the right age to give your kid a cell phone, and wonder why some do stupid things with it. If you give your kid a cell phone, they will certainly be able to send sexual photos without parents ever knowing.

Scientists have proven that the brain continues to develop into our early 20's. A lot of those common sense/rational filtersjust don't get fully plugged in until we get a bit older. Which means that many young teens, especially, don't quite have a grasp on the concept of forever, especially as it relates to consequences for questionable actions.

As an about-to-be first time mom, I wonder what technology I'll face in 14 years. But in the meantime, I wonder how we can take these tools, that make our lives so convenient, and keep them from becoming weapons that kids use against other kids, or where kids accidentally condemn themselves to long-term consequences from what seemed like a little joke 2 minutes ago.

Posted by: JHBVA | March 23, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Regarding cell phones, why not give kids the most basic possible phones, ones that don't have cameras or Web capability? They do exist. Or, do some calling plans offer the option of not being able to text or send photos?

Posted by: swmuva | March 23, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

fr GrooviusMaximus61:

>...The worst part for him, though, is that he has already been informed that he will not be allowed to play on the sports teams in high school - and he's apparently a very talented baseball player. Our high school has a strong baseball tradition and many of the kids end up with great scholarships to play ball in college. So this little escapade has cost this boy his reputation and has had a serious impact on his future.

I've no sympathy for this kid; all he had to say was NO. Maybe he'll now learn that he has NO business sending/receiving that kind of stuff and that every action has a reaction.

Posted by: Alex511 | March 23, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Every piece of technology has monitoring or some kind of device for parents to limit access. After we caught Son #1 sexting, his phone went out the window. Son #2's phone was then put on a plan that turns off the text function after 8PM, recharger was moved out of bedroom to a common space, and minutes/texts are monitored via t-mobile website now. In addition, we have parental controls on all TV's and the family computer is locked in our bedroom. When someone has to write a report for school, they are either accompanied to our bedroom or sent to the library. Anyone who thinks their teenagers are not either taking part in sexually electronic activities or looking on as their friends do is in denial.

Posted by: lauraor | March 23, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

To gm123 and Alex511: I'm SOOO glad that YOU never did anything stupid when you were 16 years old, which apparently gives you the right to heap abuse on this unfortunate teenager.

And aside from the fact that this boy is being persecuted by a law which was intended to PROTECT children, what exactly did he do wrong? It's not like he was sending around pictures of someone else. Other than the fact that these children had not yet reached the age of legal consent, this was a mutual act between two consenting human beings. If they were both 18, what they did would be legal as well as boringly commonplace.

The only obvious conclusion here is that our laws need to catch up with the recent changes in technology. Children must be protected from being victimized by sexual abuse, but instead our laws are victimizing our children by treating them as evil perpetrators.

This is just the latest example of how our once-great nation has evolved into a confederacy of dunces. I mean, really, we are a bunch of morons, and we're finally getting our just rewards for our stupidity. Will we ever learn?

Posted by: jerkhoff | March 23, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Here's a simple solution. Just because you were capable of impregnating a woman and she was capable of giving birth does not make you a parent. A parent raises their child. TALK TO YOUR KIDS. it's really that simple.

Posted by: askgees | March 23, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I guess I don't see a big problem with sexting - it's not like these teens can infect one another with STDs using technology.

There is no point in trying to lay Puritanical values on teens - human beings are sexual creatures and teens are going to explore their world as such. If you simply give you teen a healthy, safe, and open way to explore those natural urges they won't have to sneak around your back in a secretive and potentially risky manner.

Posted by: outlawtorn103 | March 23, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Parents- talk to your youngsters. You've talked to them about the consequences abusing controlled substances, liquor, tobacco products and actions that can affect their lives for years to come.

Instead of using resources to chase down criminals, we are using valuable resources to chase down youngsters who play "Hi-Tech Doctor."

Doesn't anybody ever check out their daughter's (or son's) dates anymore.

Now for all of you who think that the law is a laughing matter, here is the breakdown...

1. Get $100,000 together for attorney and expert fees, not to mention other court costs. By the way, I hear there is a 10 year mandatory sentence for possession of contraband images.

2. The emotional stress on youngsters is tough enough. Talk to them. Educate them. Exercise something called disclipline.

We don't need a nanny state, but at the same time we don't need minors sending contraband images of themselves. Besides folks, this stuff never goes away and I would emphasize this.

By the way, if you are charged with receiving via sexting, it time to call in the professionals.


Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | March 23, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

GroovisMaximus61-I, too, am also wondering how a school punish a middle school boy from playing sports once they enter high school. Just playing devil's advocate here, but if I'm the parent of that boy, I would simply put my son in an outside boundary high school where his future is not "doomed."

I do not think that teens should be punished by the law for sexting. To say it's child pornography is ludacris as long as all parties involved are underage. If it happened during school hours and on school grounds, then it should be left for the school and parents to deal with, but not law enforcement.
In many ways, I don't think sexting is a big deal. I mean, compared to teens actually having sex.

Posted by: Soguns1 | March 23, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

GroovisMaximus61-I, too, am also wondering how a school punish a middle school boy from playing sports once they enter high school. Just playing devil's advocate here, but if I'm the parent of that boy, I would simply put my son in an outside boundary high school where his future is not "doomed."


This was kind of a big deal at the school and the high school coaches heard about it. According to the kids, this was a very, very explicit video - not just a static picture. I don't know any of the particulars - just that, as of this moment, he won't be allowed to join the baseball team next year. Maybe they'll change their mind if they decide they need a great shortstop or something - who knows? If I were the parents, I would probably petition for him to be able to attend a different high school -

I think the girl that solicited the behavior should be punished, too - but I don't think she received any sort of punishment.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | March 23, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Being a teenager these days must be torture. The innate predisposition to do stupid stuff coupled with the long memory of the Internet ensure that you'll be reminded of your mistakes over, and over until the end of time.

When I was 16, I screwed up plenty. I did things I shouldn't have done. I consumed things I shouldn't have consumed. I said things I shouldn't have said. I had sex that I shouldn't have had. This is just a part of growing up. Thank god probably only a dozen or two people know what a moron I was.

These days, it's impossible to just be a kid without the whole world watching you screw up all over YouTube.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | March 23, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

fr jerkhoff:

>To gm123 and Alex511: I'm SOOO glad that YOU never did anything stupid when you were 16 years old, which apparently gives you the right to heap abuse on this unfortunate teenager....

Nobody "heaped abuse on this 'unfortunate' teenager", for pete's sake. He needs to grow UP and learn to say NO. I work for a large telecommunications company, and it's very easy to shut OFF text/pic capabilities on cell phones; all the parent/guardian has to do is call us.

Posted by: Alex511 | March 23, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

This is crazy! You mean to tell me the schools can hand out condoms to under age teens, therby promoting underage sex, but taking nude pictures is a crime? Does anyone have any common sense anymore? Promote abortion, promote underage sex, but hey don't you dare take a picture of yourself? Come on people, you can't have it both ways. Either we as a society take a firm stand one way or the other; or shut your trap and stop the laws...anything goes. I teach and preach abstinence. It doesn't always work; it's the best approach though; far above promoting the casual sex that's in our kids faces today. Yeah, lots of kids are going to do it anyway, you should teach them about protecting themselves also; from std's to pregnancy.

Posted by: angealy | March 29, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Let's be really clear about this: under our laws, any teen who sends explicit photos of himself or herself must--MUST!--be charged with distributing child pornography. It CANNOT be otherwise.

If we allow the slightest leeway in this, people who distribute this stuff will just hire kids to do it for them. I'm not exaggerating for the sake of hyperbole; I'm saying that this is how laws get twisted, manipulated, and used.

The crime of child pornography is not specific to proof that the child in question was abused or exploited. We have determined that the material is in itself exploitive, and so any distributor must be charged and punished.

Posted by: jamessamans | March 30, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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