by Richard Haber, MD
The following dialogue is excerpted from a recent Canadian Pediatric Society statement:
Boy: feelin hot 2nite need to cu
Girl: k wanna c some pics?
Girl: What’s up?
Boy: I am feeling hot tonight. I need to see you.
Girl: O.K. Do you want to see some pictures?
Sexting is a recent phenomenon fuelled by the tremendous advances in technology and young adolescents are sending sexually explicit photos of themselves over the net to selected friends. How widespread this phenomenon is isn’t well established, but one survey2 suggested 20% of teenagers, of whom 11% were young teens (13-16), were sexting. The same survey showed that 39% of teens sent sexually suggestive messages. Adolescence is a time of searching for one’s identity and especially the meaning of one’s sexuality. Unfortunately, from this author’s perspective, this is occurring in a culture that has severed the deep significance of our sexuality from our dignity as human beings; sex has become recreational. It’s devoid of any interpersonal relationship. Sex is now a game played out in cyberspace, often leading to unwanted sexual encounters. Young girls are depicted as sexual objects and we’re all aware of the dangers of sexual predators on the net. Hard core pornography is a mere mouse-click away.
When sexuality loses its meaning as a profound interpersonal communication in a committed relationship, then the dangers of unwanted pregnancies and STIs, with all their consequences, are the result. Recent statistics indicate that the rate of STIs is increasing including some, such as syphilis, that we thought had almost disappeared. Chlamydia, for example, is often symptomless in girls and yet may lead to scarring and fertility issues later in life. Many parents have little or no control over their child’s use of the internet, where anything can happen.