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Jehovah’s Witnesses

YOUNG PEOPLE ASK

What Should I Know About Sexting?

 What is sexting?

“Sexting” is the practice of sending sexually explicit texts, photos, or videos via cell phone. “It’s almost the normal order of operation now,” says one man. “You text back and forth and pretty soon you’re exchanging hot photos.”

Why do people do it? The way some teenagers see it, “having a naked picture of your significant other on your cellphone is an advertisement that you’re sexually active,” says a senior deputy prosecuting attorney quoted in The New York Times. “It’s an electronic hickey.” One teenager even calls it a form of “safe sex.” After all, she says, “you can’t get pregnant from it and you can’t transmit S.T.D.’s.”

Other reasons teenagers sext include the following:

  • To flirt with someone they hope to be in a relationship with.

  • Because someone has already sent them an explicit photo and they feel pressured to ‘return the favor.’

 What are the consequences of sexting?

Once you send a photo via cell phone, you no longer own it, nor can you control how it might be used—or how it will affect your reputation. “Mistakes and transgressions have never been so easily transmitted and archived for others to see,” says Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist and author of a Pew Research Center report on sexting.

In some cases

  •  Nude photos have been mass-forwarded by the recipient to entertain his friends.

  •  Jilted boyfriends have distributed nude photos as a way to get revenge.

DID YOU KNOW? In many cases, sexting nude photos has been considered the same as child abuse or distributing child pornography. Some minors who have sexted have even been prosecuted as sex offenders.

 What does the Bible say?

The Bible speaks favorably of sexual pleasure within marriage. (Proverbs 5:18) However, it takes a clear stand on sexual conduct between unmarried persons. Consider the following Bible verses:

  • “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, . . . neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting.”Ephesians 5:3, 4.

  • “Deaden . . . your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness.”Colossians 3:5.

Those verses warn not only against “fornication” (sexual relations outside of marriage) but also against such things as “uncleanness” (a broad term that refers to any type of moral impurity) and “sexual appetite” (referring not to normal romantic feelings that can be satisfied in marriage but to a passion that likely will lead to improper conduct).

Ask yourself:

  • How is sexting nude photos a form of “uncleanness”?

  • In what way does it fuel improper “sexual appetite”?

  • Why is the desire to view or spread nude photos “hurtful”?

The following Bible passages point to an even more compelling reason to shun sexting.

  • “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of.”2 Timothy 2:15.

  •  “What sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion!”2 Peter 3:11.

Those verses describe the positive results of being morally upright. When you have praiseworthy conduct, you do not need to be fearful of impulsive acts coming back to haunt you.Galatians 6:7.

Ask yourself:

  •  What sort of person am I?

  •  Do I care about the reputation of others?

  •  Do I want to be entertained by something that hurts others?

  •  How might sexting affect my reputation?

  •  How might sexting damage the trust my parents have in me?

TRUE STORY “I have a friend who kept her relationship with a boy a secret. Then she sent a nude photo of herself to him, and he sent one of himself to her. Not even 48 hours later, her dad decided to check her phone. He discovered the texts, and he was devastated. He confronted her, and she admitted to everything. I know she’s sorry for the way she acted, but her parents were truly in shock and were so upset! They’re not even sure if they can trust her anymore.”

Fact of life: Sexting degrades both the sender and the viewer. “It makes me feel so disgusted and disappointed with myself,” says one teenager whose boyfriend pressured her into sexting him.

In view of the moral, ethical, and possible legal consequences of sexting, you would do well to follow the Bible’s advice:

  • “Flee from the desires incidental to youth.”2 Timothy 2:22.

  • “Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless.”Psalm 119:37.

 What would you do?

Apply the Bible’s advice in a real-life situation. Read Janet’s statement, and then choose which option you think is best.

“One time I met a boy, and we exchanged numbers. Within a week he was asking me to send him pictures of me in a bikini.”—Janet.

What do you think Janet should have done? What would you do?

  • OPTION A You could reason: ‘There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, if we went to the beach, he would see me in a bathing suit anyway.’

  • OPTION B You could reason: ‘I’m not sure what he’s up to. Let me send a photo that’s less revealing and see what happens after that.’

  • OPTION C You could reason: ‘This boy is out for only one thing. I’m going to delete his message.’

Option C seems best, doesn’t it? After all, the Bible says: “Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later.”Proverbs 22:3, Good News Translation.

This exercise points to an issue that is often at the root of sexting as well as other forms of misconduct: Are you selective in your choice of friends? (Proverbs 13:20) “Associate with people you know will not tolerate inappropriate behavior,” says a young woman named Sarah. A young woman named Delia would agree. “Some so-called friends are trying, not to help you keep your morals, but to break them,” she says. “If their conduct is contrary to God’s laws, they are encouraging you to break your moral integrity. Do you really want that?”