In the news recently was a scandal in New Jersey involving sexting. For those not aware, that is where someone sends someone else a nude photo of themselves. In this age of mobile devices, it’s not unusual. However the real problem is that it practiced by children:
“I want all parents to be advised that the possession and/or transmission of sexually revealing or explicit images, or any material of that nature, constitutes the very serious crime of possession and transmission of child pornography,” Superintendent Daniel Fishbein said in the letter.
This story, just one of many, unfortunately, exposes two serious concerns when it comes to sexting. First, sensitive images can (and often are) freely shared, so that an intimate image intended for someone close becomes widely circulated, causing severe humiliation and trauma. Second, when the students are underage, the law can see sexting as distributing child pornography.
Ontario’s updated sex education curriculum included a unit on sexting, including its dangers, its cruelty and the role it plays in bullying and sexual assault. It was one of the many aspects of sex education that was in dire need of updating.
Unfortunately, the provincial government has cancelled the curriculum. It is understandable to be uncomfortable with some aspects of the curriculum, and to question it. Parents are justified in feeling it encourages inappropriate and unhealthy behaviour.
The truth is, however, that research consistently shows that removing information from teaching content does not discourage bad behaviour. Quite the contrary, the lack of information invariably leads to acts that we as parents want to stop.
It is therefore of critical importance to reinstate at least parts of the updated curriculum. It’s a matter of protecting our children. In the meantime, we need to restart and greatly expand the consultation process to ensure that parents are on board.
Closing our eyes will never make the bad things go away.