Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Text and the seedy
A guest post by SARA JONES

Nina, my neighbor, passes on her Reader's Digests when she's done with them. We always read them cover to cover, with a mixture of interest and annoyance.

RD's approach to medicine, for instance, can be summarized as: "Doctors can work miracles! Never, ever trust your doctor!" They also like featuring Obscure Medical Scares: this issue's is that artificial light can encourage certain forms of cancer -- so every time you go to the bathroom at night, and turn on the light, you're at risk! Use nightlights! Eat breakfast beside a window! Get natural light! (However, if you DO go outside, for heaven's sake don't forget sunscreen.)

But, anyway, on to what annoyed me. There was a long article on a trend among teenagers: texting nude photos of themselves to friends, without realizing that the photos could easily be sent out for universal viewing. Parents are informed and warned about what their teens (as young as 12) could be doing with their phones. Parents need to explain what is appropriate, and emphasize that once a picture is texted, there's no getting it back. Parents need to point out that years from now, those same pictures could jepoardize job options or even lead to criminal charges.

What parents are never advised to do, however, is tell their 15-year-old girl, "You absolutely shouldn't be showing pictures of your body to anybody. Your body is yours to protect, not send out for others' enjoyment." Parents aren't told that their teen boys should know that pornography, even self-created, is detrimental to themselves and to those they send it to. In short, teens are never told that it's actually a wrong thing to do -- only that it could bring them embarrassment and trouble later.

"Teens are sexual beings," the article quoted someone as saying. Thanks for that enlightenment. Teenagers are humans, after all -- and darn immature ones at that. They need things explained to them. To girls in particular, showing off your body is an easy way to get lots of attention. They need a responsible adult to tell them that pornography is a corrosive influence, reducing people to objects of selfish gratification. It's a bad start in life to give your friends and acquaintances the opportunity to whet that selfish appetite on your own body.

Why is it that today's culture thinks that 16-year-olds are old enough to understand and deal with sexual relationships on their own? Teenagers can't even handle friendships in a rational manner. But if the only caution you can give your child is, "Don't do that because it might get you in trouble later," then you're waving the white flag and the battle is over.

I care enough about my children, and my friends' children, and the beautiful, alienated teenagers I pass in town, to say, "You shouldn't do this. It's wrong." To do less is to hand our children over to those who want them only for their bodies.

Sara Jones is a freelance writer, homeschooler, blogger, and mother of three (with the fourth due in a few weeks). The above is reprinted from her blog with permission.