The above headline was what I recently overheard on a 24hr news channel (sexting being the activity of sending provocative images of oneself and others over the internet and smart phones). Of course, with just a little attention to what followed, it became clear that the hysteria-inducing title was more hype than substance. The app was just another in a line of photo manipulation programs that happens to be the latest “thang.” They presented no evidence that it actually made sexting any easier than other apps.
What’s disappointing is that the news station missed another opportunity to really educate, as usual. Never was there any research presented that shows sexting may be like any other kind of experimental stage of childhood sexuality, only with the use of 21st century mechanisms. I am not suggesting that, therefore, it’s all “okay.” On the contrary, kids must be taught how to be healthy and responsible in all aspects of life. They need to know from their parents or guardians that their bodies are beautiful and unconditionally accepted just the way they are. From that place of self-respect can they then be taught to make wise choices, rather than feeling shamed into conformity.
What we are often in denial about is that the approach of this media outlet is not illuminating sexual health, but rather it is teaching sexual shame without really knowing it. After all, millions – let me repeat – millions and millions of people put sexy images of themselves on the internet and smart phones all the time. This fact the news station never bothers to admit. Yet when younger generations simply follow suit, we scold them. For this we exploit them by making useless news appear scandalous to boost ratings. For this we have labeled some teenagers “sexual predators” for the rest of their lives. For this we teach them sexual shame and we are hardly aware of it.