Teenagers and sexting: should we be alarmed?

According to a study published in the July issue of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 28 percent of surveyed adolescents in the United States have engaged in ‘sexting’. Sexting is the practice of taking suggestive pictures of one’s self and sending it digitally — usually by mobile phone multi-media messaging services (MMS) — to another party’s computing device.

In “Teen Sexting and Its Association With Sexual Behaviors” which reports the findings of a study covering 14 to 19 year olds in southeast Texas public schools, a strong correlation has been found between sexting and risky sexual behaviour (multiple partners as well as drug and alcohol use before sex, etc.) in girls. Both boys and girls who sext, are likely to have already begun dating and are likely to have had sex.

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The study concludes that sexting is “prevalent” among adolescents. Because of the observed prevalence of this practice the study recommends re-evaluating laws that prescribe harsh penalties to minors for distributing sexually-explicit content…

The ubiquity of sexting supports recent efforts to soften the penalties for this behavior. Under most existing laws, if our findings were extrapolated nationally, several million teens could be prosecuted for child pornography. Sexting may be more aptly conceptualized as a new type of sexual behavior in which teens may (or may not) engage. In an adolescent period characterized by identity development and formation, sexting should not be considered equivalent to childhood sexual assault, molestation, and date rape.

In a sense, affordable and readily-available mobile digital technology has made sexting just another adolescent sexual adventure much the same way as affordable automobiles (some time ago also considered a technological advancement) had also made backseat sex prevalent.

The challenge to parents isn’t too different whatever the technological platform used for teenage sex. Teenage drivers drive their cars into secluded places and teenage mobile phone users do their sexting wherever there is cellular coverage. Same banana. Ultimately it comes down to how well the kids had been raised during their formative years and how well-ingrained the sense that their parents had imparted is.

This is quite relevant in a society such as the Philippines’ whose economy is propped up by the earnings of overseas foreign workers who are likely to have delegated to someone else a responsibility to raise sensible people.

11 Replies to “Teenagers and sexting: should we be alarmed?”

  1. But then again, what’s new?

    During the days of print, there was erotica.

    During the days of the landline, there was phone sex.

    During the days of chatrooms, there was cybersex.

    I don’t know about CB radio, I’ll bet there was some kind of kinky activity there too!

    Sex just follows the medium available at the time. It’s applicable to sexting as it is applicable to pornography. Giving emphasis on the medium is pointless — humans will do what humans will do.

  2. While I don’t agree with sexting as a practice, if it means that young Filipina girls are less likely to become single mums when they’re 14 or so (that’s about the average age here, isn’t it?), then I’m more than happy to see them getting their boyfriends off with sext messages.

  3. Benigno, I’ve been following your articles this past few weeks. I’m just wondering, are you a thomasian? You know a lot of events happening in UST that aren’t that publicized (i.e, the visit of the queen of spain) 🙂

  4. The new Cyber Porn Law makes internet private communications between consenting adults with nudity illegal. Why doesn’t the same thing apply to cell phone texting? How can a law only apply to adults and not teenagers? Doesn’t that violate the equal rights clause of the constitution? Didn’t the president call young teens’ erotic posing on the internet the # 1 crime problem of our country? They were going to come down on these cases with a hammer. What is the difference between internet and cell phone texting?

  5. How many men have been sent to jail and even murdered in jail for doing nothing more than looking at the type of images that young teens are sending to one another? Stop the hysteria surrounding erotic imagery. Stop the Catholic clergy and conservative politicians from dictating what is normal and what is so-called “perverted.” Bans on erotic expression should only relate to pre-pubescent children.

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