In my search for an article relating to this week’s topic of youth social media use, I stumbled across this website that I think really speaks to the way parents think of their children: keepyourchildoutofjail.com. Yes, keepyourchildoutofjail.com. This website contains advice for parents on aspects of (obviously) every teenager’s life including what to do when your teen joins a gang and starts abusing over the counter drugs. The newest topic that this website has been addressing is the very issue of sexting. I suppose sexting is becoming somewhat prevalent in high schools around the country, and the blame is being placed almost entirely on teenage girls.
In her article, “Do Teenage Girls Drive the Sexting Culture,” Keep Your Child Out Of Jail contributor, Chrisena Coleman displays a belief that sexting is a problem that stems from the promiscuity of young girls. Throughout this article, there are numerous interviews with girls of the age in question, an interview with a gentleman who gets these pornographic images from girls in his school, and an interview with a mom and parenting expert. These interviews are used to frame Coleman’s argument that young girls are the cause of this problem; that they victimize themselves and are helping the sexting epidemic spread. Denene Millner, founder of MyBrownBaby.com,indicates that parents need to help their daughters realize that this kind of promiscuity is not okay. That is why she is already talking to her eight and eleven-year-old daughters about it. Ross Porter, Government and Justice Principal for Bronx School of Law and mother to a tween, speaks along similar lines as Millner. She believes that teens and tweens are not capable of making their own decisions, so parents need to guide them. She even goes as far as to say that if your daughter will not give up her cell phone and Facebook password, you should “pull the plug on everything.”
These women do not give teen girls enough credit. Perhaps it is not socially acceptable for a 16-year-old girl to be taking risqué pictures of herself at all, but who is to say when she is ready to share herself sexually with her boyfriend? It is perfectly fine if adults want to send explicit photos of themselves to their significant others because they are seen as mature individuals capable of making good decisions, and teens are too hormonal for things like that. Teenagers mature at all different rates, and as Amy Hasinoff points out in her article, “Sexting as Media Production: Rethinking Dominant Ideas about Teen Girls and Sexuality Online,” perhaps the girls are not the only ones at fault. In fact, Hasinoff goes as far as to say that taking away the right to do what one wishes with her sexuality can take away a girl’s sense of voice in a relationship. Nobody, however, chooses to look at the boys. In the article for Keep Your Child out of Jail, Chesena Coleman is trying to show that girls are at fault when she interviews sixteen-year-old DeWayne who states that girls just come up to him, get his cell phone number, and start sending him naked pictures. Regardless of whether or not he has actually received “hundreds of sexting pictures,” he still asserts that girls need to be careful because they never know where their pictures might end up. This is exactly the problem the Hasinoff looks at. If a girl sent her boyfriend a picture of herself and he kept it to himself, what harm is done? Perhaps the boys need to be taken into consideration for the distribution of this so-called child pornography. It is easy to point to the girls who feel pressure from their peers to act a certain way, but instead of stifling the self-expression of our daughters, maybe we should have a conversation about respect with our sons.
There is a very extensive social discourse surrounding the way that teen girls use social media or technology to portray themselves in a certain light, which is almost always seen as negative. Coleman’s article, along with most news stories brings up sexting as if it is a very common epidemic; as if all teens do this on a day to day basis. The fact is, however, that a very small amount of teens are actually participating. Maybe the media and parents feeling the need to inform their children about how not to act is where these girls and boys even come up with such an idea. Personally, I didn’t know of this as a problem in my high school, nor do I know of this as an issue among any of my friends. Sexting has been taken out of context, placed the female party at fault only, and has been blown up to seem like much more prevalent than it is. I think talking to children about acting in appropriate ways is very important, but do I think that speaking to an 8-year-old about not taking naked pictures of herself is necessary? No.