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.