Report: "Sexting is Now Good For Teens" (read on to see how twisted our world has become)
Ever since smartphones showed up in the pockets of every teenager in the western hemisphere, parents have heard about the dangers of sexting. While most of us decry “not my kids,” studies show that up to one in four teens have sent nude photos of themselves to a member of the opposite sex. It is happening more often than you think.
Published online on June 28, there’s a new USA Today article with the following headline: “Caught your teen sexting? Don't 'freak out,' experts say. Study found it can be healthy.” Apparently, the good news for parents is that “the experts” have let us know that sexting can be a healthy sign of growing up.
To quote directly from the USA Today article: “In a new research paper published this week in Lancet Child Adolescent Health, researchers concluded that consensual sexting in a committed partnership might be indicative of healthy exploration.” They are talking specifically about teen, not adult, relationships.
So, parents of the smartphone generation can officially relax. If your older teen is in a romantic relationship, sending naked pictures of her significant parts to her significant other is a sure-fire sign that she is becoming a mature adult. Way to go, mom and dad! According to the experts, you’ve done well!!
Someone has to ask this question, so it might as well be me:
Has our world gone completely bonkers?
Has our culture become so backward, so twisted, so hyper-sexualized that we would think that teenagers (whose brains are nowhere near close to developing fully) should be lauded as mature for sexting? Given all the other cultural shifts we have seen happen in the past decade or so, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised.
I’m amazed that the fancy pants researchers (who will be teaching your kids when they get to college) came to the conclusion that sexting is positive even though they noted some obvious negative patterns of behavior connected to sexting.
Here’s what happens to teens who sext:
In the article, the “experts” expressed some concern that their research showed that sexting teenagers were:
more than three to five times more likely to be sexually active.
more than five times more likely to have multiple sexual partners.
half as likely to use contraception.
The fact that these findings didn’t raise any red flags illustrates how backwards things have become. In our book, The Talks, we document numerous studies that associate early sexual activity and multiple sexual partners with eventual marital dissatisfaction and divorce. In other words, the more sexually active people are pre-marriage, the greater their likelihood of not making marriage work down the road.
(*Note that we believe fully in the power of the gospel and God’s plan for restoration. No matter what mistakes our kids make, God can always provide new life and a fresh start through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. This certainly applies to sexual sin. Still, we should encourage our kids to seek God’s help to live life according to His design, avoiding much of the pain and brokenness that comes from treating God’s amazing gift of sex carelessly. In my opinion, teenagers sexting is a careless behavior.)
Is there a difference between wanted and unwanted sexting?
One key finding from the research was that there is a big difference between wanted and coerced sexts.
From the article: “While sending and receiving unwanted sexts has been associated with higher reports of depression, anxiety and stress, wanted sexts were not linked to psychological distress.”
While the distinction seems obvious, I don’t see a big difference when it comes to teenagers. (I would make a similar argument when someone tries to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary sex workers. Teen Vogue doesn’t seem to know the difference. See article.)
I have to believe that when a teenage girl sends a naked picture of herself, even to her boyfriend, it is not rooted in the maturity of the relationship. Even if it’s not “coerced,” she is stepping in to a realm of immaturity that is counterproductive to a mature relationship. She is making the relationship more shallow, not less so.
And what happens when the relationship sours and those digital images are still in the possession of the ex boyfriend. If things don’t end well, who knows what he will do. In far too many cases, the images are shared….and then comes the “psychological distress” mentioned earlier. (See our previous post on the “digital footprint” conversation.)
So what is a parent to do as they raise their kids in a world where this kind of thinking is prevalent?
There is something that Jeff Temple, one of the researchers, said that I really like: "If you're a parent and you find a sext on your kid's phone, don't freak out. It doesn't mean your kid is bad or a deviant."
As parents, we must help our kids navigate more complex sexual issues at an earlier age than ever before. We have to stay connected to their hearts, maintain a measure of relevance, and keep talking about the issues. And like Temple says, we can’t afford to “freak out.”
The world is going to keep on moving the needle on these issues. Thinking and behaviors and convictions that the vast majority of our world has embraced for centuries are being cast aside. Regarding our kids and the sexual norms presented to them, things will continue to get more and more complicated.
We have to be intentional to keep presenting eternal, fundamental truths about how God made sex to work. I don’t want to preach here, but God made sex to be pleasurable, consensual, and practiced in a committed heterosexual marriage. And he made it to be precious. We must work hard to hold this standard out to a generation who is regularly told that this standard is ridiculous.
Our kids will not learn character and selflessness and Godliness in a vacuum. They will learn much of what they see in us. But we must also take the time to teach them what it looks like to live their lives with wisdom. We have to talk about what it looks like to choose to be different than the world around them.
There’s help for parents who want to get this right.
At I.N.F.O. for Families, we are committed to creating resources for teenage guys and girls that help parents to have these critical conversations with their kids. These tools have been specifically designed to share truths with young people in a way that mom and dad can then add their perspective.
Our ground-breaking book, The Talks, has helped more than 25,000 parents equip their kids to develop a healthy view of sex and relationships.
Our innovative resource for teen boys, The Young Man’s Guide to Awesomeness, has given thousands of guys the tools they need to make wise choices about porn, girls, and the direction of their lives.
Meet Me in the Middle offers a God-focused perspective about 10 key issues that teen girls are facing. And it does it in a format that invites a girl’s father into the conversation.
Just ask any of the 10,000+ people who subscribe to our online content each month (or read our reviews on Amazon) and you’ll hear the same thing: I.N.F.O. for Families offers the practical tools families need to face the critical conversations of our day. Get your hands on the resources that will help your kids to get to adulthood with their character and relationships and reputation intact….