RONZONE: The consequences of sexting

 

 

Raquel Ronzone

Dust off your record players, reach for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Déjà vu” and adjust the needle to the second track. Take note of everything that you hear – the folk vibe, the influences of classic southern rock, the often overlooked contribution of Grateful Dead founder Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar and the unmistakable challenge to live by appropriate social dynamics.

After almost 40 years, “Teach Your Children,” penned by Graham Nash – who supposedly sustained a rocky relationship with his own father – remains a catchy, truly memorable anthem for positive family ties. Technological developments since the song’s original release have further necessitated its powerful message of responsibility and mutual learning, especially that which crosses generational boundaries.

An eye-popping trend has gripped America: with the help of new technology, younger generations are resorting to different, though equally troubling, avenues of sexual expression and satisfaction. Middle and high school students engage in “sexting,” the practice of sending, receiving or forwarding sexually explicit photographs through cell phone picture messages or e-mails.

Perhaps the lasciviousness evident in our current society prevents a public, already prone to viewing scandalous details as the crux of a news story, from seeing the real effects of sexting.

No one seems to consider the consequences of these actions until the damage of their impulsive actions has escalated to the point of irreparableness, leaving in its wake violated privacies, ruined reputations, broken relationships and lost lives.

With distorted voice and blurred image, Jessica Logan appeared on a Cincinnati television station to talk about the painful aftermath of sexting. She sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend, who later sent them to other high school students when the relationship ended. The brave voice who selflessly wanted to educate others and prevent them from experiencing the abuse she endured at the hands of peers fell silent two months later. Logan’s mother found the body of her only child dangling from a bedroom closet – the tortured 18-year old committed suicide.

The criminal justice system addresses the legal consequences of sexting. Minors who send, receive and forward explicit photographs of other minors can be charged with child pornography. Some minors face felony charges, while others face lesser charges.

If convicted, however, the senders, recipients and forwarders of the racy images could have to register as sex offenders, a label that remains with these kids – so na’ve to the consequences at the time of their actions – for the rest of their lives.

Not even the system’s permanent marking of these students as sex offenders can make them aware of tarnished standings, lost privacy, or abuse that triggers a tragedy. Though it deals with the legalities of sexting, the court does only that, and therefore cannot serve as a substitute for parents and caretakers in teaching these children about responsibility and consequences.

By sending, sharing and ogling at graphic self-portraits, young people are acting like adults and are accordingly, facing punishments suitable for adults in the court of law.

The example of Logan, though, proved that at least one young person can act mature because she acknowledged her misdeed and educated others about it. Until the adults of society properly educate their children, they will remain unfortunately ignorant of the concept of personal consequence.

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Raquel Ronzone is a sophomore communication major from Philadelphia, Pa. She can be reached at [email protected]