We have a major teen "sexting" problem — or we don't. A new Pew survey found that 4 percent of cellphone-wielding 12- to 17-year-olds have sent racy nude or partially nude photos of themselves over their phone, while 15 percent have received such "sexts." But those numbers double if you look at just 17-year-olds, and sexting has led to at least one death — 13-year-old Hope Witsell killed herself after a topless photo she sent a boy went viral. How concerned should we be about teen sexting? (Watch a report about teenagers' "sexting")
With celebrities doing it, parents don't have a chance: The sexting "phenomenon is much more widespread" than no-name teens, says Tamara Ikenberg in the Louisville Courier-Journal. "Rhianna does it. Tiger, too." And for those parents who might warn their kids off of ruining their lives this way, Rihanna is "upping the ante" — "If you don't send your boyfriend naked pictures, then I feel bad for him,” she said, after her nude sexts hit the Web.
"OMG! Sexting leaves awkward digital trails"
This "crisis" looks overblown: For all the "hysteria," it actually "doesn't seem that sexting is spiraling upwards in frequency," says Jared Newman in PC World. Which is just as well, because there also isn't really "any way to put a stop to sexting." The most effective way for parents to curb sexting is "by communicating with their teens, but if every parent excelled at that, there would be so much less to panic about in general."
"Sexting study finds few teens participate"
Parents can be part of the problem: "'Sexting' really can ruin your life," teens, says Radley Balko in Reason, but "not because of the dirty pictures" themselves. It's the "hysterical, puritanical reactions" from parents and other authority figures that cause damage — even suicide. "Some sense of proportionality and perspective" is called for when dealing with what's basically an updated "version of the age-old game of 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours.'"
"Sexting hysteria drives teen to suicide. Media ... fuels more hysteria."
SEE THE WEEK'S 'SEXTING' COVERAGE:
• Sexting: Teens vs. prosecutors
• Jesse Logan: The consequences of 'sexting'
• Why teens are 'sexting'
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- The dangers of our passionless American life
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The amazing resurrection of Mitt Romney
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- 4 strategies for organizing your money, based on your personality
- The essential techniques that every home cook should know
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- The real reason conservatives should be outraged that police killed a white youth
Subscribe to the Week