sexting: [seks-ting] noun.
I am “lightweight” anti-texting because of how de-personalized the entire process feels. It is nearly impossible to read tone unless your message includes at least three emojis. I am not able to hear the person’s voice and wonder if I am making them happy or sad. It is super frustrating because it is virtually ok to have someone interrupt my train of thought…do you not see Erika is typing on Whatsapp? Do you not see the three thinking dots on imessage?! And truthfully, I am just really lazy and it takes way too much energy to have an entire conversation pressing buttons.
But I need to get with the times because “we can be so much more verbal through texting” (J. Blatt, personal communication, November 3, 2015). Teens have invented a new language for the texting age. Let’s see how many “words” you can correctly guess with the quiz below, inspired by my professor, Joe Blatt.
What do the following text abbreviations stand for? Click here for the answers.
Texting is the most fun thing for teenagers to do on a weekend. They get to keep in contact with as many friends as they want while enjoying their Netflix binge in the comfort of their home. But what if you have been crushing on someone in your geometry class? And you got their number a while ago and have been playin’ it coo and sending cat memes and buzzfeed quizzes. And you heard from someone else that their friend said that they like like you. Let’s meet Nico and Mila, both 16 who enjoy playing soccer and like going to the movies and eating pizza…
The Hypothetical Scenario: Nico is crushing on Mila, but they are both grounded. #bummer. But they are both able to use their smartphones for one hour a night. #possibilities. It is Friday night. Nico and Mila’s messages have become more flirty over the past couple of weeks. But Mila and Nico are tired of LOL-ing and winky-facing each other night after night. So, Nico sexts Mila what he wishes they were doing. And then Mila sexts what she would do to him next. Words are not enough and after promising not to share these with anyone else, Mila sexts tasteful sideboob and Nico responds by sexting his washboard abs. And on Saturday…various half-naked poses on their beds. And on Sunday…naked selfies. #cyberscore.
This is a parent’s dream, yes? There is no way that Nico or Mila will contract an STI or become pregnant. They are still virgins and there is no harm in this creative sexpression. Or is there?
According to the study conducted by Dr. Temple et al. about teen sexting and its association with sexual behaviors, “Adolescents who engaged in sexting behaviors were more likely to have begun dating and to have had sex than those who did not sext….For girls, sexting was also associated with risky sexual behaviors” (2012, p.828). His research team concluded that sexting is very prevalent among sexually active teens and that sexting may be an indicator of when a teen becomes sexually active (2012).
Not to sound too cliched, but this sounds like a “chicken or the egg” situation. Are teens more likely to engage in sexting when they are already sexually active? Or does sexting lead to sexual activity?
How can teachers best support their students and educate them about sexting? Should teachers educate their students about the potential negative consequences? I personally take the liberal “sex-ed” approach which is to not preach “abstinence” from sexting. I would absolutely talk to students about how their sexually explicit online messages are not necessarily private. The person receiving the messages can take a screen shot or forward anything you post. I would continuously remind students to be mindful of what they send and who they send it to. I would also speak with the school administration to make sure that students are receiving a comprehensive sex education curriculum every school year (not just once in sixth grade) taught by a health professional.
How would you address this topic, or would you address this topic with your high school students? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. I look forward to learning from you.
Talk soon, Erika