Category Archives: Parenting

On Sexting

Recently my wife and I had the rare opportunity to spend a night away from our children. One of the great things we did was saw a movie together.  Through some negotiating and compromise we agreed on Crazy, Stupid, Love. We both really liked this movie.  It was an all star cast and the story line probed the depths of human desire to be connected to each other. (This is a spoiler alert!) 

In tying up the story line between Jessica (who is a high school senior) and Robbie (who is in the 8th grade) there is scene at the end of the movie that is the reason for this blog post. Jessica hands Robbie naked photos of herself and says something to the effect of, “This will get you through high school.”

Because it was the end of the move and the way the music was playing it was obvious that the viewer is supposed to be endeared by this act of naked picture sharing. What passes for endearing is great indicator of what society has deemed socially acceptable.

This made me want to reflect and research the common use of sexting between adolescents. For those of you who don’t know sexting is texting naked photos of yourself.

Here is what I have found.  I got this quote from Psychology Today:

One survey suggests, 1 in 5 teens admitted to posting sexually explicit pictures on-line. To help understand teen sexting behaviors,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl .com conducted a survey with 653 teens (ages 13-19) to explore the sexual use of sending or posting sexually suggestive messages or texts.  Some of their findings are listed below:

Teens who say they have sent or posted a sexually revealing photo or video:

  •  20% of all teens
  •  22% of teen girls
  •  18% of teen boys

Teens that have sent sexually suggestive messages:

  • 39% of all teens
  • 37% of teen girls
  • 40% of teen boys
  • 48% admit to receiving suggestive messages
Gone are the days when foolish decisions are relegated to the past.  All one needs to do is break up with their girlfriend/boyfriend and those naked pictures become a site for everyone to see.  Today’s adolescents can be making decisions that could be affecting them for a long time to come.  Here is a great article on what to do The Devastating Aftermath of Sexting.
In wanting our adolescent to develop healthy sexual identities we must talk about the lasting implications sexting may have. Adolescents are not, for the most part, capable of thinking about how their decisions can stay with them. One author writes in Sexting 101:
You see, there’s a special part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (aka the CEO of the brain) that is responsible for problem solving, impulse control, and weighing out options.  Unfortunately for teens, this area of the brain is not fully developed.  In fact, it doesn’t fully mature until the early to mid twenties.  So, while we expect our teens to know better, the fact is there’s some physiological reasons teens think they’re invincible.
There is this whole world of sexual exploration and exploitation that was not  around when parent’s, like me, were in high school. With these new technologies comes new consequences and teens brains are not fully capable of understanding this.
Now, I am not advocating unplugging the internet or confiscating your child’s phone.  I do, however, advocate having a relationship with your child that is open and honest enough to enter into the quagmires of life together and help guide them to a responsible adulthood.

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Filed under Parenting, Youth Ministry

Hurt: Time With Adults

I’ve been reading Chap Clark’s book Hurt recently and have been deeply disturbed to learn some of his research.

In his chapter, “Abandonment-the defining issue for contemporary adolescents” he quotes a study found in Patricia Hersch’s A Tribe Apart,

“In all societies since the beginning of time, adolescents have learned   to become adults by observing, imitating and interacting with grown-ups around them,” write Mihaly Csikzenmihalyi and Reed Larson in Being Adolescent. “It is therefore startling how little time [modern] teenagers spend in the company of adults.” In their study Csikzentmihalyi and Larson found that adolescents spent only 4.8 percent of their time with their parents and only 2 percent with adults who where not their parents.

This really shocks me.  My initial gut reaction was this information could not be true.  They are around adults all day: teachers, parents, coaches, etc.  But then I realized that this is mostly time of instruction or receiving tips on how to do a particular activity better. This is not beings-in-relationship.  I then start think about the adolescents in the youth group that I serve.  Many have school until 3pm and extra curricular school activities after such as sports, band, theater, etc.  By the time they get home they have 3 hours worth of homework.  They don’t have the time and parents don’t make the time.

Clark wrote a little earlier in the chapter that many parents take exception to this abandonment.  Many would say that they have sacrificed everything for their children by taking them to and from school, practice, competitions, and concerts. He writes,

This statement is in of itself yet another subtle form of abandonment.  We have evolved to the point where we believe driving is support, being active is love, and providing any and ever opportunity is selfless nurture.  We are a culture that has forgotten how to be together.  We have lost the ability to spend unstructured down time.

His findings definitely ring true.  In reflecting on this book I find that I have to be conscious of this in my own parenting and also that youth ministry is really important.  It shouldn’t be one more thing on an adolescents activity list like soccer or band practice. Youth groups should be a place where they are interacting with an adult(s) in a real and personal way.  A place where they know that no matter what there is an adult who is willing to spend some time with them focusing on them and where they are at in life.

Chap Clark, Hurt (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005).

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Filed under Ministry Reflections, Parenting, Youth Ministry