Sexting among kids baffles me.
I understand kids being curious about sex – they always have been. But it’s far easier for me to understand a boy and a girl experimenting sexually than it is sending nude photos on their cell phones.
Maybe I need to define sexting for people my age and older. It’s the practice, apparently growing in popularity, of taking pictures of your privates and sending to your girlfriend/ boyfriend – and possibly other people.
That was my reaction the first time I heard about sexting. Yet it made the news again recently when 32 junior high school students in New York were suspended for sending sexually suggestive messages and photos.
The principal said she was enforcing a zero-tolerance policy against sexting, even when it occurs off school grounds. Good for her.
Amazingly, a civil liberties group condemns the anti-sexting policy, calling it a “vague, undefined prohibition that impacts expression outside of school.”
I’m a firm believer in personal rights and freedom of expression. But, come on, we’re talking about kids as young as 13.
My son will be 12 in about a month. If his principal discovered that he’d been sexting on his cell phone, I’d applaud him or her for suspending him. I might even go before the school board and publicly commend the principal.
Listen, if the parents of these New York junior high students don’t object to their kids sexting, shame on them. If the principal has to set some moral guidelines for these sexually adventuresome young kids, good. Someone should.
Freedom of speech? No way
I can’t understand the civil rights argument that kids barely in their teens should have the freedom to send out nude photos of themselves and others – sometimes without their consent.
In high school, I can sort of understand the free speech argument in taking a hands-off approach to sexting. But in junior high, educators have a chance to intervene in risky sexual behavior before it escalates into unwanted pregnancies and spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
With young kids, freedom of speech sometimes must take a back seat to behavioral guidelines that are in their best interest.
Tell me – does anything worthwhile come from sending around pictures of genitals? Inevitably, someone will get embarrassed and regret the decision to share the photos. Teasing and sexual harassment will ensue. A child could suffer serious emotional damage from having the freedom to sext.
Is that what we want? Of course, kids are going to sext – and engage in other risky behavior – whether prohibitions exist or not.
But if a community doesn’t condemn sexting with severe repercussions, we’re missing a chance to make a valuable statement about right and wrong. The older teens get, the less they listen to adults.
If we can stop a 13-year-old girl from sexting today, we might stop her from becoming a teenage mom later and facing a bleak future of limited opportunities.
Kids seem to stay a step ahead of adults in concocting new forms of dangerous behavior. We can’t stop them, but we can speak out and enforce penalties. If we don’t, we’re harming kids in the long run.