There’s a rather sad story out of Cincinnati where a high school girl hanged herself because a nude photo she sent to her boyfriend via cellphone ended up spreading around the school, if not the town itself. It’s called “sexting,” and it’s apparently a big deal on high school campuses. And because of this legitimate tragedy—why on Earth would kids tease this girl to the point where she decided to hang herself?—people are now wondering what, if anything, should be done to stop the phenomenon.
There’s a few approaches here. One is the hands-off approach: let kids run around and do whatever they want, and let them learn from their mistakes. That hardly seems effective, and could well be dangerous, as it was in Cincinnati.
Then there’s the educational approach: you can’t stop kids from being kids—sending photos back and forth—by force, so instead try to instill some common sense into these kids’ heads. Instead of banning cellphones or keeping teenage boys and girls on different continents (as if that will keep them apart!), schools and parents should teach their students/children that, you know, you may think you love this guy, and you may, in fact, love him, but there’s other ways to show that love than sending a blurry photo of yourself to him with a cellphone.
Maybe you should sit teenage boys down and tell them, “Look, stop pressuring these girls to send you photos of themselves. You guys are already together, right? So why risk the embarrassment?” (I personally think these guys are just asking for the photos so they can show their friends in the cafeteria at lunchtime, high-fives all around. Typical teenage guy nonsense.) Make cellphone etiquette, or however you want to classify it, a part of health class in junior high, where bad habits are first introduced and learned.
Or, you could whip out the ban hammer, and pass laws outlawing “sexting” altogether. We all know that’ll just encourage kids to “sext” even more: now, not only is it “naughty” or whatever, but it’s also illegal; thrills, ahoy, right? (That’s how teens think: you give me a rule, and I’ll break it, just because.)
I’m interested in hearing what you guys have to say about this. “Sexting” is obviously not a “harmless” thing, but parents and schools need to tread carefully with how they treat their children, who are both rebellious by default, and can run circles around their elders when it comes to technology.