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Common Sense on Sexting

April 8, 2009

The mainstream has started to pay attention to the abuse of child porn charges that Harper Jean Tobin and, more recently, I have been on about. This article is not perfect, but it makes two really good points: First, that this is wildly and willfully excessive.

Should Phillip be punished? Yes. Should the six teens in Pennsylvania face consequences? Yes. But let’s kick them off cheerleading squads and sports teams. Make them do community service and take classes on sex crimes. Educate other teens on the dangers of sexting. Pay a price, yes, but these young people shouldn’t pay for this for the rest of their lives.

Second, that this ought to be a wake-up call that teen sexuality will develop, and that parents have a responsibility to shape it, which they cannot do by ignoring it:

The bottom line: We need to educate, not incarcerate, our teens and it has to start with parents.

Don’t let the culture indoctrinate your little boy or girl about sex before their time. So strike first as a parent.

As parents, if we want to do right by our kids, we have to communicate both our values and information. I’ve been saying it. It starts with telling toddlers about their bodies, so that we have the foundation to tell teens about all the other stuff — not just sexting and STIs and pregnancy, but the big thing: how to go from being a kid to being a sexual adult; how they learn to make their own decisions. It’s not a bunch of separate topics. It’s a unified whole.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2009 3:07 pm

    I was largely pleased to see this, too; I think that most people will recoil in horror at this use of the criminal law, and particularly the idea of these teens ending up registered sex offenders. At the same time, the author does come off as a little alarmist. Kids (and adults!) definitely should get the message that they should think twice about the potentially long-life of digital images before stripping off, but “she is putting her future at stake”? Sounds like one of those abstinence adds we’re always on about over here.

  2. April 8, 2009 3:26 pm

    It seems like a certain alarmism around teen sexuality is required in mainstream media to be “serious.” As a parent, I think the pearl-clutching is decidedly unserious; that serious is sitting on the edge of your kid’s bed and talking frankly about risks and rewards, and how to learn to make your own decisions in life. Serious is not just saying, “my kids can tell me anything” and hoping they don’t. Serious is recognizing that our own kids make the same crappy decisions and take the same short-sighted risks we did when we were their age, and then dealing with it by teaching them to have better judgment and make better decisions. But my agenda is parenting, and this guy’s is selling advertising, so we have different incentives.

    Still, given the mandatory level of hysteria (pun intended), this was as good as we’ll get from such a big outlet.


  1. Missing the Point on Teen “Sexting” Cases : The Curvature

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