Sexting. It’s one of those issues that’s slowly creeping to the news surface, where it’ll find a home next to texting-while-driving and other new problems we’re just now getting our arms around. One in five kids admit to doing it, and most of them are able to hide it from the folks.
What was true before cell phones is just as true now–teens are exceptionally risky little devils–and wireless is just one of the latest additions to the devils’ playground.
And it’s getting serious in more ways than one. An Iowa Supreme Court ruling this week consigned an 18-year old to the sexual offender registry for sending nude photos to a 14-year old girl. The girl admitted to asking for the photos, but the other kid’s urge to please has landed him on a black list that will dog him for the rest of his life (story here). Another 18-year old in Vermont was sentenced to three months in prison yesterday for sexting with two teenage girls (story here).
State sexual offense laws were not crafted with new fangled activities like sexting in mind, so penalties in place for long-standing nasty enterprises are being dually applied to kids with cell phones. Your 15-year old, seasoned child pornographer.
To foil their adult critics, kids are writing another chapter of coded texting lingo to accommodate sexting. Here are a few examples:
RUH = Are You Horny?
PIR = Parents in Room
GNOC = Get Naked on Camera
GYPO = Get Your Pants Off
Sexting, of course, isn’t just a teen thing. Adults have been doing it for years (at least since people could send text messages) and anything anyone is doing with mobile phones is predated by instant messaging, which was predated by chat rooms, which was predated by bulletin board systems, and on and on.
I think what’s drawing attention to teen sexting in particular is that mobile phones are another step removed from adult eyes. At this point you can pretty much figure out anything your kid is doing on the h0me computer, but when he or she is off somewhere with a cell phone, the game gets harder.
But not by any means impossible. Kids are going to screw up. They’re kids. Parents have to figure out how to lasso this problem, and fast, so that their risk-prone, screw-up-destined kids don’t fall prey to an antiquated legal system hungry for fresh examples.