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Sexting, social media, and common sense

By Scott Tibbs, September 13, 2013

I posted this last weekend on the Facebook page: "Never post anything on Facebook you would be horrified to see on the front page of the newspaper or as the lead story on the nightly news." It actually goes a lot deeper than that advice, though it is good advice. (And I certainly cannot claim credit for it.) A better version would be something like this: Never take a picture or post anything to any social media website that you would be horrified to see on the front page of the newspaper or as the lead story on the nightly news.

Three news stories over the last couple weeks have prompted this post.

  1. A blog post about "selfies" on social media that lit up Facebook.

  2. A Fox News article on the prevalence of sexting among young people.

  3. A CNN article urging the criminalization of so-called "revenge porn."

The most obvious connection is between the second and third articles: sending nude or semi-nude photos to other people and the woman who is being harassed after her lowlife ex-boyfriend posted a nude photo of her to the Internet along with her contact information. The obvious lesson is this: Once you send someone an inappropriate picture of yourself, you completely lose control of that photo. The person who has the photo can post it to the Internet or forward it around without your knowledge or consent.

As I said on Twitter, the primary lesson should be "do not allow others to take nude photos of you. Ever." Pictures like that can destroy your employment prospects, harm your friendships, ruin your reputation and even subject you to stalking, death threats and perhaps even violence if posted to the wrong place.

The GivenBreath.com article is a nice corollary to that, even if the pictures are PG-13 instead of R or X rated. One of the criticisms of that article was that the author should have extended "a little more grace" in response to the statement that "there are no second chances with pics like that." It is a silly and ignorant criticism. One can extend grace to the teenage girls who post those pictures while not subjecting yourself or your sons to pictures you deem harmful.

We live in a world where our lives are lived in public, to a greater extent than ever before. All of the social media websites, blogs, forums and newspaper website comments allow the average person to put himself in the spotlight in a way that would never have been possible twenty years ago. As a society, we are still figuring out how to deal with that. This means that as parents, we need to use wisdom and discernment with how our children behave online and we need to be very informed about what they are doing in cyberspace.