Sexting is a new phenomenon, and some parents are treating it the way adults throughout history have treated the fact that some teens have sex lives–by freaking out and punishing young people with slut-shaming and teen sex witch hunts.
A report from USA Today says that cops in Prattville, Ala., deal with “a sexting-related issue” about once every two weeks, which means, yes, parents are actually bothering the cops with this issue.
Police Sgt. Geary Graves is actually stoked about the uptick in sexting cases–”We get their phones and pull the pictures out,” the grown man is quoted as saying to USA Today. “The ones that we find out about are the 15-, 16-, and 17-year-olds sending pictures back and forth to each other. We ask the kids why they do it, and they say … they don’t know. They just do it.”
The sexting cases often end in juvenile court because minor-to-minor sexting is a criminal offense in Alabama, District Attorney Randall Houston of Wetumpka, Ala., told USA Today, which is enough to make your brain explode and no doubt send countless kids to therapy for years and years in the future.
“Kids aren’t doing anything maliciously evil. Most are just making unwise decisions,” Houston tells USA Today. “That’s why I think it’s appropriate that these end up in juvenile court as opposed to adult court.”
Probably the most appropriate course of action would be for adults to teach these young people about respect, consent and safe sex–not make them feel deep shame because they’re doing what their bodies tell them to do. But hey, getting them started early in the criminal justice system because of their private conversations could work, too.
Professor Glen Ray of Auburn University tells USA Today that kids are sexting ”for reasons ranging from boredom to pressure from a boyfriend.” Clearly Mr. Ray doesn’t remember being a hormone-addled teen. Boredom is more likely to result in teens knocking shit over at 7-Eleven and posting it on Vine. The thing that causes sexting, we think, is just garden variety randiness.
USA Today also includes a list of tips that will work really well for making your children hate you forever. “Be a vigilant parent,” they counsel. “Know who your child is talking to and who is trying to talk to them. The more information you have about their interactions on their phone, the better equipped you will be to interfere if anything dangerous should happen,” because apparently dick pics are dangerous these days.
These grown men perusing intimate photos of 15-year-olds are just trying to protect the kids from the pics coming back to haunt them, Sgt. Graves insists. ”We tell them that once they take a picture and they send it to someone, that picture will be there the rest of their life because that person will send it to someone else,” he said.
But what Sgt. Graves clearly fails to understand is that the process of shame and court appearances that follows a sex or sext scandal is what will really damage kids–a nude photo itself isn’t going to hurt anyone, as long as it’s sent consensually. So maybe a better possibility: we, as a society, could educate teens about sex itself and stop shaming people just because they’ve got a topless pic or two floating around the universe. Wouldn’t that be nice?