Thursday, January 29, 2009

the naked divide

I'll tell you about yesterday. How a student overheard me talking to another teacher about 'sexting'. About how this student rolled her eyes. How she noted that 'sexting' seems to be something adults are all up in arms about. So I presume she is fine with the notion of sending naked images of herself to friends, and of friends sending nude images to her. And she responds:
It's just so interesting that adults have a problem with it. That it's all over the news.
And if I were in her shoes (if she wears them), I'd point to this site and I'd have no choice except to agree with her. We're teaching about abuse, about manipulation, and violations of privacy, but we're overlooking the ones disrobing with glee, who digitize and transmit their privates with no sense of the word privacy.

They are voluntary participants in a network of naked transmissions, and we're powerless against a naked divide that we can neither mend or clothe.

3 comments:

Farfisa said...

I just read this a few minutes ago. Is it possible that she thought the adults were over-reacting because it's not as prevalent as we're afraid it is? http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/29/at-a-journalism-conference-a-c/

Ken Rodoff said...

Nice article. Thanks for the link, but I have to take some exception with it.

The author ends by re-affirming a point made earlier in the article:

...adults in this society – are “a mess.” I think it’s time to stop projecting our dysfunction onto our children.

My over-scheduled, stress-induced life doesn't seem to negate the fact that after speaking to two students at my school, both of them were able to recount recent experiences with 'sexting'.

Yes, not 'everyone' is doing it, no more so than any other odd, left-of-center behavior, but if I strip (tee-hee) the action down to its core, of sending nude images of oneself via cell phone to peers, then simply put, it's both a disconcerting and inappropriate act.

As a parent, I'm all too worried (uh-oh, I'm falling victim to the author's assertion) that if I relegate certain behaviors as overblown and done by only a 'few', then I'll miss the boat on my own children.

I fear that I may one day say, 'yeah, but not my daughter.' I can not think of a parenting ideology more inept.

13 years in the high school has trained me to qualify every aspect of adolescent behavior under the, 'ugh, that could be mine someday'.

So I may stay up all night. I may fret with worry. But no equation in the world will ever demonstrate that my paranoia exaggerates/perpetuates mythic adolescent behavior; when, in fact, some adolescents are behaving as described.

Farfisa said...

I'm not denying sexting (or any other gross actions) do take place. Just wondering if it's terribly common. We all know someone who - choose your favorite deadly sin - does that mean we need to project it onto everyone? I hope not. Does it mean we don't need to be watchful with our own kids? No, my son has no better judgement than anyone else's, at least not at this tender age of 12.999.

Maybe what makes us most uncomfortable is the close contact we, as teachers, have with youngsters whose parents aren't as watchful as we are, or as imaginatively paranoid as we are, or who are addicted to or dealing drugs. I think you and I would be the ones saying "not my son because I just checked his cellphone log, because I know he and his friends were playing Mario Cart at our house last night, because I enforce that curfew".

I think there's a difference between realism and paranoia. Just because I've now taught 2 murderers doesn't mean I have to look at all children that way. Conversely,just because I believe the best of teens doesn't mean I can't be tough on them.

Your paranoia may not exaggerate the occurrence of the problem, but the exaggerated publicity may make some parents think "oh, it's not too terrible if everyone's child is doing it." Almost as if these out-of-proportion headlines desensitized us to the lesser sins in our own houses.