Friday, 18th February 2011
“If you loved me, you would do it!” The ‘it’, in question when I was young was more often than not, agreeing to necking, petting, or sex.
These days, the “it” is likely to include sexting – the newfangled idea that photographs sent over mobile telephones or pc cameras must include a risqué element to make them more ‘fun’ and ‘interesting’.
Unfortunately, the teenagers (and tweens) who indulge in this do not realise the far-reaching consequences that their foolhardy actions may set in motion.
When you leave a comment on a website, however obscure, you never know when and where it will turn up; it is the same, only worse, with compromising photographs that will have unprecedented side effects.
There are ways and means for people to scour the internet for this type of snapshot and use it for their own heinous intentions – ask Cheryl Cole, whose head was pasted onto bodies on pornographic sites, and whose photographs appeared in a Russian site that offers mail-order brides. She has clout enough to have had them removed – common mortals know that once something is on the net, it’s there for keeps, and cannot be retrieved or deleted.
Picture the scene; a girl (whether she trying to entice a boy, or trying to please her boyfriend does not matter) sends a provocative picture over her cellular phone, in an e-mail, or via a social site that has this application. The boy decides to pass this on to a friend- and the next thing you know, the picture has been sent to contacts of contacts, or, worse, it is being manipulated by paedophiles who may even seek to contact the girl.
There is also the tiny question of “revenge” – when immature persons end a relationship and these images are still on the recipients’ phones, the temptation to use them to settle scores may be too hard to resist.
Just as most of us now realise “we ought to have studied harder” when we were children, young girls do not realise what this can do to their future, in the way of relationships, reputations, and even job prospects.
Today’s youth are very comfortable with saying what they had for breakfast and which film they watched and why their geography teacher is a nitwit, like all his forbears (only they would put it differently).
They have no compunctions about showing themselves worse for wear during a night on the tiles, never considering how humiliating these photos will be once they are sober. By the time they remove them, they could have been seen, and copied, a thousand times. They do not even bother to tweak privacy settings of their social sites.
Think of the BCC facility on your e-mails. You can copy your lawyer in when you send an e-mail to the neighbour whose dog is fouling your garden. You can copy your sister in when her husband sends you a flirty e-mail and you put him in his place. You can copy your best friend in when a mutual friend disparages her and you berate her for doing so. All these mails can be printed out.
This is an example that teens may understand. They are so used to sharing even their most private moments that they consider sexting as a fleeting incident, since another will replace it within the next five minutes.
If this fails to impress them, talk about the paparazzi who are always ready to take photos of celebrities in their off moments. Of course, I have not even touched upon how there photos are breaking child pornography laws – because in Malta, a chid is anyone who is not yet eighteen years old.
Would your child be astonished to learn that sexting has led to suicides, when the teenagers (usually girls) involved could not take their peers’ taunts or cyber-bullying from people whom they do not even know?
Pop stars like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé don’t help. Neither do hip-hop songsters who perform with camera headgear, splicing images of glamour with S&M shots and imitation cop uniforms and arrests all of which are pulsed to the throbbing beat of the lyrics.
This is a wake-up call. This is not a matter of invading the privacy of your teen; by tomorrow morning, you could be crying over spilt milk.