In the more than three decades I have been on the radio and in counseling practice, the saddest experiences (and the most difficult to be helpful with) are those where parents call to tell me their child is dead. The child may have been the victim of an accident, war, a crime, an illness, or a suicide. No matter which, the pain is unimaginable and the duration is infinite. It is against the “order of things” for our children to die first; and it is against the order of things for us to feel incapable of protecting our children from everything, anything, and anyone.
The hurt and rage a parent feels is understandable. A desire to do something with that hurt and rage is also understandable. It is generally difficult to get a sense of closure or justice or revenge. And so many parents believe that, if they can get one or all of those, the pain goes away. It doesn’t….not really.
An 18 year old young woman in Ohio sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend. Apparently, this “texting” of private parts is quite the rage in the youth population. At some point, the relationship ended, and he, I guess, thought it would be amusing to send the photos to other students at the school.
In May, 2008, the young teen went on a local Cincinnati television station to warn other teens against sending personal body part or naked photos to others, lest they also go through the harassment that she got, as students – mostly girls – called her a “slut” and a “whore.” In spite of her noble efforts to warn other young people, and the gratitude she got from innumerable parents, two months later, she decided to kill herself, apparently as a way to avoid the painful embarrassment.
“Sexting” (as it’s called) is a growing problem that has resulted in child pornography charges being filed against some teens across the country, because sending sexually charged pictures of minors is a crime One national survey found that 39% or more of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages, and 48% report receiving them!
This young woman was humiliated by the daily snide remarks, and she started skipping school. Her mother drove her to school to make sure she got there. Then, after attending the funeral of one of her friends who committed suicide, this young, tormented woman hanged herself in her bedroom.
Of course, the focus for her mother is an attempt to punish those students or the school with lawsuits and criminal charges. The mother is understandably beside herself and wanting to lash out in rage. However, the fault doesn’t lie in the stars. The openly sexual environment that children are exposed to makes these behaviors (like oral sex in middle school classrooms and bathrooms across the country) seem like the norm for the day. Girls have always wanted to make boys love them, and cell phone texting technology just gives young people another avenue to express their hopeful desperation to be wanted and loved.
It was pathetic and stupid of her to send the picture; it was unconscionable of her ex-boyfriend to expose her to ridicule; it was disgusting for girls (competitive little witches that some can be) to make fun of her; it was brave for her to use her experience to warn others; it was too bad her family didn’t get her mental health support or transfer her to another school; it was a deadly coincidence that her friend committed suicide; it is an unspeakable anguish that she thought this was the best solution for a “temporary” problem.
I hesitate to write “temporary” because, with the Internet, such photos are forever, and those who wish to cause hurt to others relish in exploiting such mishaps for their own pathetic ego gain.
Parents, many of your children have already done this via hand-held video cameras or computer cameras. Many of your children have already been “embarrassed,” while others have become more popular. Very few will kill themselves, but even then, something in them does die, as what is precious and private becomes entertainment for the immature and downright mean. Parents, make sure your kids know not to become either.