Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sexting in Middle School

I think, all in all, I am a pretty liberal parent. My kids talk to me (okay, we shout, and cursing is allowed during these times), but generally, they know what I expect from them,
and I try to
meet their expectations. But a few days ago, while some friends were over, a group of girls began sexting the boys -- my boys and their friends.
I had heard of sexting, in the same way I had heard of bombs and assassinations and plagues. They were terrible events, but blessedly distant. I didn't worry too much about any of it. But then, over the weekend, during a sleepover, these girls decided to shoot pictures of areas that are covered on American beaches and send them to boys' cell phones. The girls are 13.
My response? I wanted to call the girls' parents.
The boys quietly deleted the images. They sat me down and explained this had been happening for quite some time, but since they knew I would become "justice mom" they didn't want to tell me.
"So, do you think there's something wrong with them?" I asked.
My high school boy told me if they took a picture of someone else and sent it, then, yes, that was wrong. But girls did it all the time. It was, he reasoned, their body and their choice.
My middle schooler agreed. He explained girls sometimes did this as a way of flirting.
"They're in the eighth grade," I protested, "they are children. Can't these pictures be downloaded to the Internet?"
The boys looked at me. After a few seconds of glaring, they explained the pictures (and sometimes acts) made them uncomfortable, but they came unbidden as text messages. The end result? They wished I had never found out.
But I did. And what I have learned is that there are potentially criminal charges for the sexters.
It is a form of telecommunications harrassment and depending on the age of the sexter, sending pictures like these can be construed as pandering obscene material. But that wasn't as bad as the next fact I discovered: kids as young as ten are engaging in this behavior (modeled by older siblings) and the behavior is not only increasing: it is exploding in popularity.


CJ said...

I had not heard about this. But, sadly, I'm not surprised. Our lives and those of our children are becoming so "virtual" and disconnected from reality that many are not counting the cost of their spontaneous choices. They are living for the moment. Thanks for letting us know about this new "trend." It's something to keep an eye out for in protecting our kids from other kids. Isn't that a horrible thing to have to say?


Anne Spollen said...

It is horrible, CJ. I wasn't going to blog about this, but, as my boys predicted, the "justice mom" rides again. All the boys seemed so calm about the pictures; it has happened before. It could also be that I was raised with a whole lot less nudity than they were (no cable tv until college).
But it's the girls' AGES that leaves me shaking my head...

martin abernoth said...

My god.

Bish Denham said...

This is new to me. Alas and alack, that Innocence lies dying at our feet. My heart is sore.

Anne Spollen said...

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I blame the television culture. Kids see so much suggestive behavior from such a young age that it becomes normalized. They hit early puberty and act it out.

WordWrangler said...

I knew it happened, but didn't know the "proper" name for it. Thankfully, 10 year old can't even stand to wear jeans that MIGHT show her belly button. She says, "MOM! I hate low riders! They give me wedgies!"

AND she doesn't have a cell phone. She's thankful just to get to use the landline. Mwhahahahahah!!!

Besides...I'd have to lock her in our medieval tower if she even thought about anything like that.

so there.

WordWrangler said...

obviously I meant to say MY 10 year old in the above post...not just 10 year old. Duh. It's late. I'm tired.

I'm going to bed. :)

Anne Spollen said...

Good point, WW. I wonder how many of the parents of these girls have any awareness of their behavior. If you Google this, you can find it's all over US schools.
I also wonder how strong the peer pressure is on young teens who wouldn't normally participate in public displays of nudity. Is it an "I dare you..." kind of thing?

Marcia said...

God help us.

Frankly, current social trends are one reason I write historical novels. I don't get these kids, and I'm beginning to wonder to what degree MG and tween kids even see themselves or their peers in their contemporary literature anymore. If this is really what's going on, their books are more innocent than they are.

Anne Spollen said...

Thanks for visiting, Marcia!
I think, in fairness to MG and YA kids, there are a few kids involved in sexting, but like other bad behaviors such as drinking or cheating, that behavior affects them all.
When the subject came up around a group of my sons' friends, the kids acted really embarrassed about the whole trend. They can't help but be involved with it since they are involved with their peers, but I think, on the whole,the majority of kids are still pretty innocent.