- The Washington Times - Monday, January 1, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Kids and teens were more than happy that Santa’s nice-list gifts included a smartphone or laptop, and with those gifts comes an addition to parents’ to-do lists.

Do your children sext? Are they pressured to have a sexual relationship? Are they pressured to be someone’s “one and only?”

You should know.

No, scratch that. You better find out.

A new study published in Northwestern University’s journal of Sexuality Research and Social Policy warns that girls and teens are struggling to resist a temptation that even grown folk can’t seem to muster the nerve to conquer.

Yep. When it comes to sexting, sending nude or seminude images and sexually suggestive messages, girls can’t say no.

So, you know what that means, right?

Parents and guardians must take up the mantle and provide youths with a simple three-word instruction: Just say no.

Forget the cynicism regarding Nancy Reagan’s use of those three words in the 1980s to fight drug use and drug dealing, because you see where that anti-Reagan stance has left us. (We’re smack in the middle of a deadly opioid-narcotic crisis.)

That’s why it’s important to get ahead of the curve.

Researchers analyzed 462 self-postings to the anonymous online platform AThinLine.org and found that teen girls who were asked to send nude photographs felt “overwhelmed, confused, tired, bombarded.” The girls felt trapped between the conflicting pressure to say yes and the conflicting pressure to say no.

And what’s truly unfortunate is that the girls knew there could be criminal consequences if they said “yes.”

Explained research author Sara Thomas: “Faced with these pressures, young women often acquiesced to young men’s terms for romantic and sexual engagement. While many young women took on the responsibility of negotiating these pressures, they were also confused and didn’t have the tools to cope.”

Indeed, the most common reaction was to ask WSID? In text slang, that stands for the “What should I do?”

The answer: Just say “no.”

And tell them the story of native New Yorker Anthony Weiner, who was a seven-term member of Congress and influential Democrat until his own sexting took him down. Tell them Weiner sent sexually suggestive photos of himself to teenage girls, and he got caught. Tell him he was arrested, convicted and sentenced. Tell them he was a parent, too.

Parents also should tell their children that juveniles get busted for sending and receiving lewd material on social media and on their laptops and smartphones, too.

Some criminal and juvenile justice systems want to softer on young people. However, unless and until they do, the laws are the laws — and in many respects, thank goodness they are.

Perfect example: A young Maryland man who lured adolescents at school, a recreation center and at a house of worship was nabbed after an older male discovered the man’s lewd and nasty interactions on his nephew’s cellphone.

Whether the boys in the Maryland case had the tools to handle the pressure isn’t clear.

“The study focused on young women and didn’t consider how young men behave, nor did it consider same-sex romantic couples,” Ms. Thomas said. “But it did point to a need to support young women to negotiate these situations with greater agency and teach young men relationships skills, like respect, consent and boundary acceptance.”

Teach one, teach all is the lesson of digital age.

And, for sure, boys and girls must be taught that saying “no” is their first line of self-defense in the social media-focused age were in.

Peer pressure can be a pain in the you-know-what, so the sooner you get to your youngsters and their social media connections the better.

Don’t rely or wait for Twitter, YouTube or Pinterest to develop a TV-like V-chip. On the web, First Amendment complications could emerge.

Whatever you do, parents, do not shirk your responsibilities, in your home, with your children.

Simply assure your children it really is OK to just say “No.”

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]


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