They must be business socks.

For starters, sexting is pretty much a no-no in terms of the law of chastity, and yet, it is common among teens.  As a “no contact” sexual experience [1] it may seem like an easy way to avoid the nasty side-effects of breaking the law of chastity.  Will anyone get pregnant?  No.  Do you have to confess it?  Er. . .  What will happen if you do?  Uhm . . . ?

A recent article in the Atlantic explained some of the ins and outs of sexting in more detail.  As a mother of teens who gets most of my information about current sexual trends from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, this was helpful.  I think we all know the scary stuff:  images are never fully gone once they are sent out, teens’ developing brains lack judgment about sending or posting images, and future employers as well as a burgeoning number of perverts troll the internet looking for embarrassing photos of our kids that will be used against them until they die.  In short, as alarmingly permanent as tattoos seem, sexts are a million times worse, and there’s no Q-switch laser procedure to remove them.  Additionally, because it is illegal to post nude pics of minors on line, even if the person is posting a selfie, they are technically illegal.  That doesn’t mean they are always truly committing a sex crime, even if they are according to the letter of the law.

In cases of sexting, it is very hard for law enforcement officials to be consistent and to know and when or how to assign blame.  There are a few terms that are helpful in this regard:

Aggravating Circumstances.  An adult was involved or blackmail was involved.  In one case, two teen girls bullied an autistic boy into posting a picture of his genitals.  The boy was prosecuted.  [facepalm]

Reckless Circulation.  Sounds like the blood is flowing too fast, taking the corners on two wheels.  This actually refers to forwarding or posting nude pictures of another person without their consent.

No Malicious Elements.  Normal teen sexual exploration.  Even in these cases, Pennsylvania police reported making an arrest in 18% of cases!

What are teen attitudes about sexting?

Add to the long list of things teens will regret.

As with most teen sex culture, there is a big double standard surrounding texting.  Additionally, girls can be cruel to each other, mainly based on class or clique, trying to distinguish themselves as “classy” compared to other girls whose pictures are shown.

Studies on high-school kids’ general attitudes about sexting turn up what you’d expect—that is, the practice inspires a maddening, ancient, crude double standard. Researchers from the University of Michigan recently surveyed a few dozen teenagers in urban areas. Boys reported receiving sexts from girls “I know I can get it from” and said that sexting is “common only for girls with slut reputations.” But the boys also said that girls who don’t sext are “stuck up” or “prude.” The boys themselves, on the other hand, were largely immune from criticism, whether they sexted or not.

Knowing the risk, why do girls get involved?

Our only way of being alone was to do it over the phone. It was a way of kind of dating without getting in trouble. A way of being sexual without being sexual, you know? And it was his way of showing he liked me a lot and my way of saying I trusted him.”

Most teens who sext feel pressured to do so, although the majority sext to a boyfriend or girlfriend.  But those who sext due to feeling extreme pressure or wanting to get a boyfriend (12% of sexting girls fit this category based on interviews) feel worse after sexting and feel they have negative social effects.  These pressures sexters were also more likely to engage in self-cyberbullying (leaving mean comments about themselves on internet sites) in order to get sympathy or attention.  They were also more prone to problems with sexual violence in dating.

The good news

Few teens share sexts with others without permission.  Sexting is not a gateway to sex. [2]  Sexters are over three times as likely to be sexually active.  Sexts received outside of relationships seldom figure into young male fantasies, which are mostly shaped by pornography instead, something that should scare us all.

Warning Signs

These are the behaviors that create serious problems.

  • Sexting before high school age.
  • Sexting due to pressure rather than within a relationship.
  • Sexting in order to pursue a relationship that one does not already have.
Who wants you to sext? That’s right. Satan.

My guess is that psychologically, any risky behavior teens engage in (not just sexting) in unequal relationships is likely to create problems.  The church’s current focus on the Law of Chastity and the guidelines in For the Strength of Youth do a great job at limiting the first two problem behaviors:  beginning group dating no earlier than 16 helps with the first [3], and reducing sexual pressure in relationships by making celibacy the norm [4] helps with the second.  On the third, that’s not really addressed, but it’s an important caution.

While being a teen may be roughly the same no matter what generation you are, being a parent sure doesn’t seem to get any easier.

Discuss.

[1] LDS teens always seem to be in search of these.

[2] Correlation does not equal causation.

[3] Might have helped back in the 1840s, too.

[4] Also making celibacy “normal” is biologically difficult of course.