“I wanted him to like me more” were the words that were uttered by a teenage student ridden with regret as she partook in a research interview exploring the issue of Sexting.
Just in case somebody somewhere is asking themselves ‘what in the world is sexting?’ Let me bring your Google search to a halt, Oxford defines sexting in the following way: To Send (someone) sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone.
This ever so easily defined phenomenon is unfortunately the progenitor of a variety of complex challenges that are having a detrimental impact on youth culture worldwide. It’s not surprising as the words sexually explicit; photographs and mobile phone are all in the mix.
- For the sake of perspective let’s have a look at some facts and stats. did you know that :
- 11% of teens admit they’ve sent pictures to strangers (Cox Communications)
- 80% of teens who have sexted are under the age of 18 (Cox Communications)
- Over half (57%) of teens from a 2012 survey reported that they had been asked to send a sext (JAMA)
- 12% of teen girls feel pressured to sext (The National Campaign)
- 38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or emails—originally meant for someone else—shared with them (The National Campaign)
These staggering statistics bring home such a sobering sense of seriousness. However, the gravitas of this matter asserts itself all the more when you hear the stories of young people that have been on the receiving end of severe harassment , bullying, depression and in some tragic cases suicide.
From a Youth worker’s perspective it can be so frustrating to realise that this modern day pandemic opportunistically infects and invades age old cavities such as peer pressure, the pursuit of approval and affirmation, purity in the midst of sexual curiosity and so many other areas that young people are forced to navigate daily.
When thinking about this topic I couldn’t help but wonder if the woman at the well found in John 4 would have succumbed to sexting propositions as a teen. I wonder if her desire to be intricately and intimately known and seen would have been short-circuited by an image on a screen.
While we can only speculate one thing is for certain, her encounter with Jesus exposed the frailty of her previous pursuits and showed that He encompassed true satisfaction as all her efforts to be satisfied by any other means did not match up to the one who told her everything she ever did (John 4:29).
My view is that underneath this beautiful encounter lies an enthralling challenge for Youth Workers and parents alike, namley how do we point our young people to the truest and most refreshing Living water in the midst of a culture that screams You only live once?
I genuinely wish I had all the answers but I don’t, However over the past ten years of Youth work I have formed the opinion that a piece of the puzzle has something to do with how we effectively cultivate and celebrate an authentic counter-cultural perspective that is owned by our young people and centred in Christ.
Through endeavouring to cultivate discussion and honesty in a period where young people are most developmentally secretive and through committing to faithfully journeying and supporting young people as they navigate through the challenges of passing fads and fazes we are blessed with the opportunity to reflect the faithfulness of Christ and expose the frailties of our culture.