A six month investigation into the sexual habits of teenagers (Channel 4 and NSPCC), has reported its findings on what the “average young teenager in an average school faces on a day-to-day basis”.
One thing that stands out in the report is the fact that sex texting, the sending of naked photos (self) to others, has become “normal” practise among many secondary school pupils.
Quotes from teenagers interviewed included:
“I get asked for naked pictures on blackberry messenger at least two or three times a week”.
“You would've seen the girl’s breasts before you have seen her face in person”.
The report also highlighted the reality that modern technology (smart phones and computers) has moved teenage sexual exploration a million miles away from the old system; where a boy (usually) eventually plucked up the courage to approach a girl and together, they developed a face to face relationship, with all the associated awkwardness. This step by step very personal approach has been replaced with a technology driven bravado and (for many) a complete lack of inhibitions.
“The change we have seen is a shift away from an exchange within a relationship", said Professor Andy Phippen (University of Plymouth), "[to deciding] whether or not I want to go out with you depending on what you are willing to do before the relationship starts. There is a new era of flirting”.
A teenager agreed:
"There are less relationship based on feelings it's more about your hot …I’m hot, let’s see what we can do. It’s based around the bodies more than what is inside".
As well as the obvious sexual and relationship fundamentals of sex texting, teenagers also commented on body image aspects of the practice. Two boys made the following statements:
"Grown-ups think that it is the girls that are pressured, because they see the Sun’s page 3 girls and porn, but there is equal pressure to boys and equal demands".
"Boys are put under pressure to get photos of girls to have muscles and to look a certain way”.
The sex texting phenomenon does naturally lead to the question “what can/should we do about it”?
"Society needs to except that it happens and be more resilient about what we are going to do about it”, said Professor Phippen. “Both the adult population and the younger population need to acknowledge it happens and not go into hysteria, just because it's happening in your school. It is happening in all schools. I don't think a knee jerk reaction of banning and confiscation will make any difference whatsoever, I think what young people need is awareness and support".
As parents, we naturally want to protect our children from activities like sex texting that speeds up their journey into adulthood. We cannot control everything teenagers do, particularly when they are out of sight.
The best parents can do, is to foster an honest and open relationship with their teenagers (if possible) and educate them, so that they are equipped to make good informed choices.