Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sexting: Teens and the Public Sphere

I’m not sure if any of you have heard of this or if I’m just an oblivious hermit but apparently there is this new phenomenon called ‘sexting’…meaning sending naked or semi-naked pictures through cell phone picture messages. Weird. I stumbled upon this story while watching the news over the weekend and thought that it fits within our discussions on citizen media and the public sphere quite perfectly.
Many teenagers are being faced with criminal charges for ‘sexting’, recently six Pennsylvanian teens have had to undergo legal repercussions for taking part in these acts (some call them felonies). One in five teens are involved in sexting which is why there is an urgency to educate them about the effects of their actions; once pictures are released into the public sphere they are gone. Those who take part in these acts are completely naïve, the reality is that once pictures are posted on the internet or released into the digital sphere all control is lost. The connection between the Internet and cell phones becomes quite clear, once a cellular picture message is sent the receiver then has the ability to send it to whoever and however many people they want.
Children are growing up too fast and entering the larger public sphere at too young of an age. Communications technologies are being wrongly used, further showing that children need to be censored (just as with the internet the same can be said for cell phones). Children are not responsible enough to understand the severity of this issue and the consequences of getting themselves involved in sharing x-rated photos of themselves.
We all know that once pictures are released in any type of digital format we automatically lose track of them and can no longer control who sees them and what is done with them. Issues of privacy and self censorship are directly linked to this conversation. I’m sure that teens aren’t the only ones involved in sending offensive picture messages but its frightening to hear about the younger generation taking part in these types of acts especially when they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. The severity of this issue rests in the very fact that once you send pictures you automatically lose your control and rights to privacy, in essence your private life is exposed to the public. Similar examples are posting pictures on Facebook or Myspace.
Do children have enough discretion to censor themselves or do higher authorities need to intervene?
If you want more information about this check out the following websites:


  1. Yesterday morning when I was browsing through my T.V channels, I cam across this exact same issue being discussed on the Tyra Banks show. Don't worry- you are not a hermit- I had not heard of the issue either- or realize how common it was until I heard it on the show.
    The youth generation that is below us, is growing up way to fast. Not only in their sexual behaviour, but in their technological use as well. In regards to your question, I do not think that kids have enough discretion to censor themselves. Kids, I think, feel its more "innocent" if they send naked photos of themselves rather than commit the physical act of sex. As much as the issue is disturbing, I do not think there is an effective way for high authorties to intervene if they tried. On the Tyra show, the girls who were sexting were 13-15 years old and their mothers were aware of the issue and didnt seem to do anything about the issue.
    If these kids own parents are not overly mortified or concerned about the messages being sent through text- than who'se to say an outside authority will care either?

  2. I've definitely heard about this too! I think it's something terrifying in the sense that a lot of the participators are young girls- getting younger every day because honestly who doesn't have a cell phone nowadays? I'd say that young girls are being pressured by boys to participate in these exchanges. It used to be just the interet, with dirty chat room talks, but now girls are actually sending photos through phones. And we all know the extent of what cell phones are capable of these days. I truly don't think that these girls give much thought to what they are sending, because doing it on a phone isn't like doing it on a computer- you just don't have the same filter because it feels like a completely different sphere of media. Girls need to recognize that images can spread fare and wide through cell phones as easily as through the internet.