We Are Failing Our Teens:
The Destructive Combination of Technology, Social Media, and Sexuality
-By Dr Ray Kadkhodaian
This past January, in a local suburb of Chicago, a 16-year-old teen committed suicide hours after being confronted by school officials for video recording a sexual encounter he had with another peer. He was an honor roll student that had never been in trouble with his school before and had become so scared about the consequences of his behavior that he chose to end his life.
Regardless of the exact circumstances of the case, this incident is one of growing number of incidents that involve teens, technology, social media and sexuality. It is also apparent that the school system, the law and parents are scrambling to catch up to the new issues that this combination creates and are confused on how to handle them.
According to the law, teens that post or record images that are considered “pornographic”, regardless of whether it is a consensual act between two minor peers, can be brought up on charges for being in the possession of child-pornography. To further complicate this issue, if found guilty, the teen could face being registered as a sex offender for life. These laws are well-warranted and in place to protect victims, however were written before the introduction of readily available technology in the hands of teenagers.
Teens, who naturally are in the process of exploring their own sexuality, can easily make mistakes with technology and social media that can have severe consequences. These mistakes can be a result of lapses in good judgment or inadequate direction from adults, which are somewhat expected from teenagers, however have more of an impact today than teenage mistakes have had in past generations.
Unfortunately, these issues faced by teens today may be our fault as a society and a culmination of what we expose our children to in the media. According to an article written by Gruber and Grube (2000), published in the Western Journal of Medicine, “on average, teenaged viewers see 143 incidents of sexual behavior on network television at prime time each week, with portrayals of three to four times as many sexual activities occurring between unmarried partners as between spouses.” In addition, “as much as 80% of all movies shown on network or cable television stations have sexual content.”
These staggering statistics point out the flood of sexual messages impressionable teens are exposed to with little guidance as to what is appropriate or not. Adults in society today can’t even seem to get a grasp on what are healthy sexual boundaries amongst themselves, thus it is not surprising that our teens mimic the role modeling our society is providing.
The immediate accessibility of pornography online, the ease of obtaining sexual encounters with apps like Tinder or “hook up” websites, and the ability to share sexual content via phone apps, provides a technological environment for teenagers to act out impulsively. Acting out sexual behaviors in this kind of environment offers no warning of the long-term consequences, and because of the permanence of the internet, mistakes made in the moment can follow them for the rest of their lives.
It is extremely important for us as adults to create solutions that will protect our children and teach them about healthy sexual boundaries considering the challenges they face today. It is also important for teachers, educators and mental health professionals to take notice of children who struggle in these areas and offer guidance to both the teen and their parent. It is even more important for the legal system to consider our children as a priority when reconsidering and revamping laws regarding these challenges.
Dr Ray Kadkhodaian is a licensed counselor and CoFounder of The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center, located in Schaumburg, IL. The Lighthouse was Co Founded by Dr Ray & Rev Jean Kadkhodaian and is the first emotional wellness center to be established in the Midwest over 15 years ago, lighting the path towards healthy relationships. In addition to creating a unique and more successful program to help couples called, Couples Synergy, Dr Ray & Rev Jean created a center providing counseling services for couples, families and individuals, to assist them in creating happy, healthy and empowered lives. For more information, check us out at www.LighthouseEmotionalWellness.com, or call us at 847-253-9769.