I'm always on the lookout for Lovin' the Alien story ideas. So, I've set up alerts to notify me when news items include the word "teen."
Sometimes there are lots of stories; sometimes none. Sometimes they're relevant; sometimes not.
This morning was a doozy.
Apparently, as reported in more than 80 stories on Google news, some 100 teens have been implicated in a sexting operation in Virgina. Actually, I don't think "operation" is really the right word. It's more like a movement, a wave or phenomenon. As far as I can tell, there wasn't any money being made. It was all just kids being kids — albeit naked kids being naked kids on the Internet, naked. (Did I mention they were naked?) The girls involved ranged from 14 to 17 years of age and, according to the police, all of the pictures ("although explicit") appeared to be consensual.
For the record, posting naked pictures of underage girls is considered distribution of child pornography. Just saying.
The police are actually being pretty cool. They are working to get to the bottom of all this but they aren't pressing charges. Still, it's worrisome that the "consensual" event was as complex as it was — with an organized website containing 1,000 nude photos and with participants spanning 6 Virginia counties.
Here's where it gets interesting. Teens aren't the only ones who can't resist social media. Virtually every story about this event generated a rash of reader comments. Before the opinions devolved into accusations against the NSA and conspiracy theories about living in a police state, most were from outraged citizens who blamed ... the parents.
Here are some choice words for those of us who chose to reproduce:
Sickening. Where are the parents?
Parents, you have no one to blame but yourselves.
Teens doing stupid things is the domain of parents not police.
Clearly the parents weren't paying attention.
Parental Involvement Deficit Disorder?
Oh lord, parents watch your kids and be alert.
It seems to me the problem is in this world of latchkey kids, the parents are unaware of what their kids are up to.
This is a perfect example of the kind of parenting that goes on in this society.
We're going to have to agree to disagree. I would also wager that most of these vocal — and, oy vey, so judgmental — commentators are not parents themselves. They underestimate the challenges of raising a teen in the digital world. By about a million miles.
Did these kids do something stupid? Yes, obviously. Did we do stupid things when we were teenagers too?
I have a teenage daughter who has access to pretty much every digital device and channel currently available. She has an iPhone; we have an iPad. She has multiple digital cameras. She has a laptop (at any given time there are at least three and sometimes four of them in the house). We have a digital DVD player that enables Internet access through our widescreen TV. Really. (Cool, huh?)
I'm not listing all of this to brag about how fortunate we are (very) or how much we spend on electronics (a lot). But to point out that it would be pretty much impossible to lock and password protect every piece of equipment. Even if we did choose to live "off the grid," she could get online at school, at the library or at a friend's house.
My daughter is careful about what she posts, but she's certainly come across inappropriate pictures, not to mention language. I'm actually not too concerned about her own online behavior. If I was, I would certainly be more vigilant. But, even then, I couldn't police her every movement.
The parents had their heads in the sand.
No, my friend, they probably didn't. They were probably juggling a full-time job with running a household and parenting a high schooler. They were probably immersed in helping with homework, driving to games, paying bills, putting food on the table. Sexting is something to worry about, of course. But, it isn't the only thing.
Most of us are wide awake and doing the best we can.
Maybe you're the one who needs to open your eyes before you open your mouth.
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.