Sexting: Cell Phone Smut

Rev. Spriensma is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

There are many wonderful new inventions that we enjoy today. One of them is the cell phone. I think that most people under the age of forty today, in our country or in any other developed nation, would be lost without their cell phones. 

We can let our young daughters drive their car down the highway, not afraid of what might happen if their car had a breakdown. They would be able to call us or other appropriate help to get them going again. We are able to stay in touch with our young people in the evenings. And we are able to conduct business and receive calls wherever we go. Just watch as you are driving down the road, and see how many drivers are busy on their cell phones while driving. And now our phones are cameras also. We can take pictures of what we see and where we are and share them with all whom we desire to! 

But while a wonderful and helpful invention, this is also a tool that the devil is grabbing a hold of to ensnare and lure us and our children into sin. Hence the new word that is coined today: "sexting." Blogger 'GranDiva' claims to have coined the term. You will not find it in Webster's dictionary. It is too new. But Wikipedia defines this term as "(a portmanteau of sex and texting) the act of sending sexually explicit photos electronically, primarily between cell phones. It is practiced primarily by young adults, though it is known to occur amongst children as young as middle-school age." Urban dictionary lists as a definition: "the act of text messaging someone in the hopes of having a sexual encounter with them later; initially casual, transitioning into highly suggestive and even sexually explicit...." CBS News on January 15, 2009 reported that three teenage girls who sent nude or semi-nude cell phone pictures of themselves and three male classmates in western Pennsylvania are charged with child pornography. CBS News analyst Lisa Bloom said, "This is a serious felony. They could be facing many years in prison." The teens involved were girls aged 14 and 15 years old and the boys were 16 and 17 years old. Most of those teens accepted lesser misdemeanor charges. In Fort Wayne, a teenage boy is facing felony obscenity charges for sending a photo of his private parts to several female classmates. 

Sexting is shockingly common among teens. Twenty percent of teens admit to participating in sexting, according to a nationwide survey by National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Often the photos or messages are meant to be private. The teens naively think that their boyfriend or classmate will not share the message or picture with others, only to find out later the image has made its rounds or even been posted online! 

Daniel James Devine, in an article in Worldmagazine, March 28, 2009, entitled "Cell phone Smut," tells the story of Ben Hunt, a 14-year-old who attends a school in Falmouth, Massachusetts. One day he turned on his cell phone to discover someone had sent him a photo of a 13-year-old female classmate. It was explicit: the young girl lifting her shirt and revealing herself. But instead of deleting the photo and informing a teacher or parent, he did something foolish and sinful: He forwarded it to a friend. Now Hunt and five other boys from his middle school face charges for possession or dissemination of child pornography. If convicted, they could have to provide DNA samples to the state and register as sex offenders. A Massachusetts juvenile court informed Hunt the charges against him would be dropped in August, but only if he wasn't caught sexting again. 

Courts in at least five other states have handled similar cases over the past year. All involve indecent pictures of minors that were shared by sexting through email, text messaging, and web pages. While the vast majority of such photos go unreported, enough are caught to wake us up to realize that what is a wonderful invention and tool for mankind is also a powerful tool in the hands of the devil for sin and mischief. What has some especially worried are adult predators, who get hold of the pictures and either pursue the minor teen or use the pictures to blackmail the teen into doing sexual favors. 

A funny picture or flirty message on your phone might seem innocent enough, but what is your teen really saying when he sends a text. He may think that he is only having fun, but in reality he is sending a functional invitation to more sexual activity. 

This is a wakeup call. These are temptations that we of the older generation were never faced with. Many of us never have been on such sites as Facebook, Myspace, You Tube, Craigslist. While government agencies are trying to ensure that these sites curtail such pornographic pictures for minors, we cannot wait for the government, which indoctrinates the youth in its public schools to have 'safe sex,' to set the moralistic guidelines whereby our covenant youth live and flourish. 

Parents! Parents, what are you doing? Be aware of the sin out there. Be aware of the activity of your children. Do any of your teens or young adults have their own cell phone? (Yes, I know they do. I have even heard of a third grader who has his own cell phone!) Perhaps you say, "Well, my child would never do something like that!" Our children, teens, and young adults are curious, adventuresome, and impulsive! They, like us, have a sinful nature to wrestle with. Do your children really need their own cell phones or personal computers? Where are they using them, and what are they doing with them? What sites are they using on their computers? Where is your computer in the home located? You can call your cell phone provider and Internet provider and request a block on texting. It is free and fast! 

Yes, with the important and useful invention of cell phones and Internet, we need to be warned of cell phone smut. 'Sexting.' We might wish we never had to hear of the term, but it is here and it is real. We need to discuss with our children this temptation and the sin of fornication. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour..." (I Pet. 5:8). "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication..." (I Thess. 4:3). 

May we, with our children, as we use these modern inventions, be careful. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2).

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