Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Teens & Sexting
Unlike the teens of yester years, most of today’s teens are comfortable with playing out and documenting their lives online via multiple social media outlets. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit photos, messages, voicemails, IM’s, videos, etc., either via phone, computer, webcam or other device. Uploading and posting photos, posting messages, updating their relationship statuses, establishing connections, and reaching out to friends both near and far has never been easier. However, when living in a culture that seems to promote “pushing the envelope” understanding as well as determining what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to transmit via texts, social media, etc. can be unclear, especially for teens and other adolescents. Unlike adults, teens do not consider or employ consequential thinking when making most decisions, rather most decisions made by teens are impulsive. Impulsive acts made in the present can create problems and challenges in one’s future.
Specifically, most teens are under the erroneous belief risqué images transmitted can be deleted or timed to delete without being saved and stored online, this thinking is both incorrect and dangerous. Once an image is sent the sender no longer has any control over who sees the image or how it will be distributed as the recipient of the image can then show and transmit the image to others. In a world with ever changing and evolving technology, opportunities to reach larger and larger audiences increases rapidly. Reasons and or initial purposes of transmitting risqué images or video does not matter. Social media makes it possible to view and transmit images with very little effort, consent for use, or without regard for who is in the photo or video. Often age, gender, mental capacity, and other factors do not appear to be a significant deterrent for those that are determined to transmit, to possess and transmit images. In many of the instances in which sexting occurs, the teen or teens involve are struggling with one or several of the following; low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, body image issues, feelings of isolation, or possess a strong desire to fit in, to belong. In addition to the images being transmitted to others sending sexual images to minors is against the law, and some states have begun prosecuting kids for child pornography or felony obscenity.
Consequences of sexting can include but is not limited to:
Loss of control surrounding how image will be used
The image or video used as a retaliatory act during a break, bullying, extortion, etc.
Humiliation and further declining self-esteem issues
Negative legal ramifications
Future consequences, i.e., denials with regards to schools, scholarships, employment, legal, etc.
Haylie is a 16-year-old girl who struggles with low self-esteem, she is slightly overweight and plagued with acne. A few weeks ago, 18-year-old Adam, the cutest guy in her school, asked her out on a date on Friday night. Haylie was initially skeptical of his intentions, however, because he seemed so sincere she decided to go on the date. Haylie had never been asked out before, much less out on a movie date with a guy that was not related to her. The movie was great, Adam was funny, he seemed genuinely interested in getting to know her, and appeared to like her. As the date was drawing to a close, Adam appeared to be taking the long route to Haylie’s home during the drive. He repeatedly complimented her, telling her she was funny, beautiful, and not like all the other superficial girls at their high school. After a short while he pulls the car to the side of the road and began kissing her. Haylie feeling for the first time in a long time, attractive and wanted returned Adam’s affection. Adam quickly asked Haylie to remove her top so he could “see all” of her, reluctantly she agrees, she even allowed Adam to take pictures of her unclothed. The night progressed in much of the same manner with Haylie and Adam becoming intimate in his car. Haylie happily spoke with Adam over the weekend during very brief conversations, as he was very busy with family obligations. She couldn’t wait until Monday to see him again in school. Monday morning couldn’t come fast enough, Haylie couldn’t wait to share with her friends that she and Adam were now a couple.
Upon entering the high school on Monday, Haylie couldn’t shake the feeling that most of the students were staring at her, some appeared to be whispering about her, others were looking from their cell phones to her and back to their cell phones laughing. As she approached her locker she saw it, there it was, an enlarged naked photo of Haylie posted on the locker with the word “PIG”, written in bold red cursive writing.