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Sexting: Confronting the Problem

Last week’s report by University of Texas Medical Branch researchers that over 28% of teens have sent nude pictures of themselves to others (sexting) should be a wake-up call to those who work with family and youth.

The report, which is based upon a scientific study of nearly 1,000 students in the Houston area (as opposed to a phone or online survey), indicates that sexting is an established practice in youth culture and is also potentially indicative of sexual activity and risky behaviors.

Some of the results are to be expected: Boys ask for naked pictures more than girls. That’s no shocker.  But, it is alarming how prevalent sexting was across both ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.

In addition, the report discusses the legal implications of minors sending sexts which may well run afoul of state and/or federal child pornography laws.

So, what are the implications for the Church, and our task of effective discipleship?

Before we dive into things you might want to read the the UTMB report, “Teen Sexting and Its Association With Sexual Behaviors” by Dr. Jeff R. Temple, Phd., et al, that may be found here:

“Teen Sexting and Its Association With Sexual Behaviors”

 A PDF of the report can also be found, here.

To summarize the findings:

  • 28% of teens in the study had sent naked pictures of themselves to another via texting/e-mail (i.e. had sent a sext).
  • 31% of the teens had asked someone to send such a “sext”.
  • 57% had been asked to send a sext.
  • Those engaged in sexting were more likely to have begun dating and to have had sex.
  • For girls, sexting was indicative of other risky sexual behaviors.

Now, a number of concerns arise from the fact that more than 1/4 of teens are sending naked pictures of themselves:

  • Digital images/videos are very “slippery” in that they easily “escape into the wild” and can be quickly sent around the world.  Once in “the wild” they can never be completely brought back into your control.
  • Depending on local laws, some images may qualify as “child pornography” and could lead to serious legal problems.
  • Salacious images/videos are notorious for becoming widely distributed and later found by potential employers, scholarship committees, and college admissions offices.
  • Such behaviors may well damage the development of a healthy sexuality.
  • “Youthful indiscretions” that used to fade into history maintain a form of immortality on the Internet, impacting lives for years and, potentially, decades!
  • Youth may be socially stigmatized, ostracized, and/or bullied because of the transmission/sharing of inappropriate images, especially young girls (the Internet “slut” syndrome).  There are documented cases of such persecution leading to suicide.
  • As the age of cell phone use continues to drop the potential for manipulation, exploitation, and coercion of young children skyrockets!
  • It is a sin, and violates God’s design for marriage and sexuality.

The problem is real and is the result of technology in the hands of unprepared children and youth.  We are not going to eliminate the technology (who, then, would teach parents how to load an iPod?) but we CAN and MUST prepare children and youth to counter both the temptations that may come their way as well as countering the threats of others’ misuse of technology.  And we have to move beyond “Just Don’t Do It’.

And, while the report does not address this, I think we need to admit that these numbers are likely very representative of American youth in Church, too.  After all, sin is everywhere, and historically the Church, across the entire spectrum of Christianity, struggles as much with sexual sin as the un-churched.  The Church has also been behind the threat where technology is concerned.  And, you can bet that Satan targets Believers and the Churched more than those who attend Creekside Baptist or Bedside Lutheran!!

All of this  means that the Church must effectively, consistently, and Biblically address the following:

  • Moral and ethical implications of technology.  We can’t depend on kids to put 1 and 1 together can come up with 2.  They need help seeing the consequences and risks of technology misuse.  Adults need this, too!
  • Implications of technology on Biblical sexual purity, relationships,  and how sexting lowers sexual barriers.
  • How families, and individuals of all ages, can protect themselves from these threats and temptations.
  • How parents can effectively raise kids to be safe and pure in the Internet Age.
  • What the Bible really says about Marriage and Sex, and how to teach children about it.

This needs to be a regular, but not continuous. emphasis if for no other reason than Satan is regularly attacking the Church with sexual temptations, deceptions, and misinformation!  How often and how regular?  About the same as your emphasis on stewardship and evangelism!

Beginning in August 2012 Knights’ Quest Ministries will begin offering brand new programs on technology and purity that will complement our current seminars and workshops.  The PURE TECH 21 and TECH SAFE 21 programs will equip all church members to deal with sexting issues… and more!

  • TECH-SAFE YOUTH will discuss God’s design for marriage and sex using both General Revelation (God’s Creation/science) and Specific Revelation (The Bible) and then apply that knowledge to dating, technology use and misuse, and how to stay pure until you get to the altar!  This program  is aimed at youth, 6th Grade and up, and is usable for college student programs, as well!
  • TECH-SAFE HOME is a parenting seminar designed to educate and equip parents to deal with the many technology threats to the home in the 21st Century.  This includes the Internet, cell phones, game systems, and more.  Online pornography, sexting, and Internet predators are all addressed.  Practical parenting skills are taught to armor up the home!  No one under 18 is permitted to attend!

In addition to these two new program, our FLAME-PROOFING YOUR KIDS Workshop is available to provide a systematic Bible study on Biblical sexuality, dating, and marriage, and how to teach and guide children in these areas.  It is available in 2,- 4-, 8-, and 16-hour versions. 

Visit our web site for more info.

How is your congregation being equipped for these battles?

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