Sex, teens and technology
God created us to be sexual beings and teenage is a time when your sexuality and desire levels increase dramatically. So what’s the big deal about using the latest technology to communicate about sex and sexual activity? Is sexting (sending sexual images via text or messaging) or cybersex (sending sexually-explicit messages) wrong? Surely it’s just a bit of fun and it’s not like actual sex—is it?
The difference is in the characteristics of communication in the cyberworld of instant messaging, texting, chat rooms, social networking media or any of the other rapidly evolving tools.
Cyber communication is accessible anywhere and anytime. It’s instantly available and so it meets your needs for instant stimulation and immediate rewards. This, of course, applies to everyone. But for a teenage brain, bubbling with sexual desire, a sexual message pushes all the right buttons.
While we might think of sexting as between two people—the sender and the receiver—it is almost never limited to that. Unlike a physical one-on-one intimacy, pictures and statements in cyberspace are there forever. They can be shared, and often are. Your boyfriend might like it’s cool to share a revealing photo of you with his mates or use it against you later as an act of revenge or jealousy when your relationship ends. These images can turn up much later in the sender and receiver’s lives, causing embarrassment in a work or public arena, or hurt in a relationship.
It’s important to know that, in most countries, possession of sexually-explicit images of minors is currently an offence. So, your ‘fun and cheeky’ images shared with a boy or girlfriend who’s under 18 years old could land you on the sexual offender’s register and impact you for life.
As Christians, how should we view cybersex and sexting?
Here’s some food for thought:
- Jesus commands us to love others as we would ourselves (Matthew 22:37–40). Are your actions in passing around (or gossiping about) explicit photos how you would like to be treated?
- Our bodies, especially those parts involved in sex, are special: they were created by God for pleasure and procreation in the loving bond of marriage. Getting naked is a sign of trust in another person who has committed to your happiness rather than their own (1 Corinthians 7:4). If you love another person, you would never ask them to do anything that is potentially demeaning or degrading.
- The Bible clearly tells us that sexual activity, whatever it is and wherever it lies on the intimacy spectrum, is to be reserved for marriage (Hebrews 13:4). So sexting or cybersex, which are acts designed to sexually arouse yourself or another person, is to never a good idea.
There is one clear question you can ask to test whether your behaviour online, either via a social networking site, texting or email, is appropriate for a Christian: is it something you would be comfortable talking about with your Christian friends or Youth leader?
If you’d like to read more about the joys and pitfalls of online communication—and how to be cybersmart—it’s all covered in Chapter 9 of the Fervr book, Teen Sex By the Book. Here are some other worthwhile sites to check out:
- The Australian Government and Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have produced an excellent site called ‘cyber[smart:]’: http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/
- For an excellent video resource, ‘Tagged’, on the effects of brain snap decisions, cyber bullying and sexting:
Or on YouTube at:
- Why not start by checking out your Cyber-smartness? Do the quiz at: http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/Kids/Fun%20things%20to%20do/Quiz%20-%20how%20cybersmart%20am%20I.aspx
And check out the other fun things to do on the site. There are also great resources for parents and teachers. They may not know about these so why not tell them about it?
Other useful web sites (international and Australian):
- Enough is enough: http://www.enough.org/
- One of the pages on this site has great resources on Cyber bullying: http://au.reachout.com/find/articles/cyberbullying
- An Australian site on Social Networking: http://www.dbcde.gov.au/easyguide/
- And if you want to brush up on net lingo, check out: http://www.netlingo.com/