You Can Relax About the Teen Sexting Crisis
Literally how are we still talking about this?
The year was 2009. Adolescents all over the country were being taken out of class and hauled into auditoriums to be lectured on the grave dangers of “sexting,” then a buzzy new portmanteau of the words “sex” (gasp) and “texting.” These were simpler times, when no one had to know or care what was going on the White House because we could safely assume they had things under control, so the media was free to focus on fueling whatever inane moral panic currently had the nation in its grips, meaning every outlet took it upon itself to warn parents that their teens were using flip phones to send sexually explicit messages at “epidemic” rates.
Then time went on, Snapchat was invented and society developed a healthy attitude towards sex. Just kidding! But the mass catastrophizing around teen sexting did seem to settle down a bit as phones became an increasingly inevitable part of daily life and, ahem, adults also realized that sexting is fun and normal. By and large, the panic surrounding teen sexting faded into memory as the epidemic that wasn’t, and we all moved on with our lives.
Except for the part where we didn’t, because apparently some people still think the fact that teen sexting isn’t a big deal is newsworthy. According to MIT Technology Review, a “new” study suggests teen sexting “is an overblown moral panic.”
This take is lukewarm at best, but the real issue is not that they’re trying to issue a wake up call we should have all come to a long time ago, but rather in the study’s underlying message that teen sexting en masse is still a danger to be feared. The study suggests we can all relax about teen sexting not because it is fine and normal for teens to explore their sexuality, but rather because it isn’t happening that much.
According to the study, only about three percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in the US reported having sexted “many times.” While one-third of students surveyed reported sexting only once, MIT Technology Review confirmed we can rest assured that “it’s rare to find a serially sexting teen.”
This rhetoric reenforces a very 2009-era conception of teen sexting as negative, despite recent reports (and common sense) that indicate teen sexting is actually a normal, healthy part of young people’s sexual development.
But hey, at least we can all rest easy knowing the teens of America aren’t a bunch of serial sexters exploring their sexuality in a safe, consensual and very normal manner!
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