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Teen Sexting, Texting, and Suicide II

Eighteen year old Cincinnati area girl, Jessica Logan, made a grievous mistake, an all-too-common mistake being made by perhaps millions of other teenagers, predominantly by teen girls. She had texted, “sexted” is the popular term, compromising pictures of herself to a boyfriend and, after their breakup, he and/or five of her “friends” forwarded the pictures to hundreds of other girls.

The actual forwarders seem in dispute but what is incontrovertible is that some of her peers in and around Jessica’s high school chose to share her pictures with countless others.

The result for Jessica was a living hell. She was shunned, expelled from parties, taunted and bullied on Facebook and MySpace, and she received endless, random phone calls accusing her of being a slut. She ended her personal hell by resorting to what she felt was her only recourse. Jessie hanged herself in her bedroom last July 3rd.

To her parent’s great credit, only months after that horrific event which caused her mother’s mental breakdown, they are now speaking out in hopes of forestalling “copycat” suicides by other teens as a consequence of such sexting. Following their daughter’s lead-Jessica had gone public on television in May, “to make sure no one else will have to go through this again”-Cynthia and Albert Logan have launched a nationwide effort to help curb sexting by children and are seeking stringent laws to limit or eliminate such activity.

We hear a great deal about rights nowadays, and precious little about

responsibilities. “Rights advocates,” (the ACLU), have now entered the sexting picture, with little concern for the hapless victims of that craze, and have instituted legal actions to defend, preserve, and protect the right of minors to willingly exhibit their bodies for public viewing.

The constitutional question of freedom of speech should be irrelevant as applied to this current craze of teen sexting. I would go so far as to dare “constitutional scholars” to go to court contending that minors have that right and privilege, via either text/sex messaging or direct internet postings. They would, or should, be laughed out of court.

Then again, such objections could be upheld in today’s liberal tribunals.

Sometimes we forget, and despite their efforts to appear otherwise and despite nature’s efforts to make them appear adults, adolescents are far from adulthood. Whether their chronological ages are 12 or anywhere up to 17, they are still children both legally and insofar as their intellectual and emotional maturation. Many are able to “pass” as older and many of those are the ones most in danger from themselves and from the adult world they are all too eager to join.

Jessie, an only child, may have been one of those kids who are so enthralled with the allure of the trappings and freedoms of adult life that in their haste to be full-fledged “grown ups,” they are rendered oblivious of the pitfalls and challenges of that stage of life.

Jessica Logan was a typical Ohio teenage girl, vivacious, compassionate, artistic, outgoing. All of those traits were thrown into reverse when she learned that what she had thought were her private pictures had been widely disseminated. Jessie learned the very hard way that life can teach extremely stern lessons.

There has been no definitive study on precisely how many teens actually do engage in the dangerous practice of sexting. One estimate says 22%, although some high schools report that up to 50% of students have “inappropriate” pictures on cell phones. Still other stats suggest that 39% of teens have sexted and 48% of teens admit to receiving such messages:

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“Inappropriate” was not defined but many of those pictures evidently go beyond merely inappropriate and whatever the actual numbers, they are significant and too many.

What has been confirmed is that teens are taking nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves on their cells, then sending the pictures on to friends. Some of those trusted and equally-foolish, or vindictive, friends transmit those pictures to an unknown number of others. Some post them on the internet, effectively sharing them with millions of total strangers worldwide.

Knowingly or not, those amateur pornagraphers are advertising themselves and their sexually-explicit photos for all the world to see. As the parents of Jessica Logan discovered too late, doing so can have long-term and disastrous effects on the girls involved. No matter their ages, the teens are not immune from charges of possessing and transmitting child pornography, either, even with regard to their own pictures.

Why they get involved in such self-destructive behavior is a complex topic only partially explicable by immaturity. There is also our highly-sexualized culture, the movies teens see, the music they listen to, the resultant moral decline, parental laxity and, the most dominating influence, peer pressure.

Since kids spend so many of their waking hours in their schools, it would be more than reasonable to expect that those schools be involved not only in student curriculum but in any illicit extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, that would be an incorrect assumption, which proved to be yet another revelation to the Logans.

Officials at Jessica’s school, not unexpectedly, were not only ineffectual but they virtually ignored Jessica’s plight. Fully aware of the harassment she was enduring both during and after school hours, they did nothing constructive to shield her from the bullying: “The Logans said [that her high school] and the school resource officer didn’t do enough to help Jessie. [They] sent truancy notices… but no calls or letters about what was happening to [their] daughter in school and no notices to other parents about explicit cell-phone photos. And no charges were filed by the resource officer.”

School administrators are usually far more inclined to take the path of least resistance and to avoid bringing attention to serious problems in hopes they will go away on their own. Involving law enforcement authorities would inevitably mean negative publicity which is as anathema to school administrators as it is to politicians. So, for all intents and purposes, Jessica was set adrift to contend with her personal devils and ultimately succumbed to what her mother called her “torture.”

America’s youths, especially young girls, are in a dire crisis. Sexting is but one more spoke in their crisis wheel which, added to the many other critical challenges they face, has the potential of destroying many more young lives.