On air: Are mobile phones damaging our children’s sexual development?

sextingLet’s me be straight up about this: this is a BBC story. We wouldn’t normally take one of our own and develop it into a programme. WHYS is about taking conversations that are already taking place, not about starting them. But this has been in the top 10 most read stories worldwide on bbcnews.com for the past few hours, and we’re also confident it relates to an issue that is already up-and-running in many of your countries.

The story is about how British police believe 1 in 4 teenagers are swapping intimate or sexually explicit photos, called “sexts”, on their mobiles. Some feature themselves, others are pornographic images.

Do you have children, and do they have a mobile phone? Are you concerned that sexual material they may be receiving, sending and even generating is affecting their sexual development?

Or maybe you’re a teenager. Do you think adults need to understand that the way children communicate about sex, attraction and relationships has changed and that new doesn’t mean bad?

And are we wrong to single out children in this discussion? Aren’t we all exposed to far more sexual material than our parents because of the Internet?

And as social media allows us to generate vast amounts of ‘content’ about our lives and interest, where’s the surprise that we should want to the same about the sexual side of our life?

105 Responses to “On air: Are mobile phones damaging our children’s sexual development?”

  1. 1 Konstantin in Germany
    August 4, 2009 at 14:23

    The problem isn’t new and hasn’t that much to do with cell phones.
    In primary, i’ve seen cut-out-images being swapped. In lower secondary (when computers came out) it was floppy disks with images, then CDs and now there’s broadband internet. Children have become more precocious than before. That still doesn’t mean, that they can’t be great adults later on.

    The only thing worrying me is the integrated camera in every phone with the potential to plunge someone into a desaster, who’s compromising photo has been taken and shared with others.

  2. 2 Andrew in Australia
    August 4, 2009 at 14:32

    Why is there any surprise about this. As I walk down my local shopping area after the local private (upmarket) schools have disengorged their loads I see teens, very young teens hand in hand with their partners, cigarettes hanging out of their mouths throwing back their double cream mochaccinos. We hear how many 12 year olds have tried marijuana, teenage pregnancies and so on and so forth. How many kids these days have had sex by the time they are legally recognised as being able to? Why is it any surprise that kids these days with their overindulgant parents and excessive freedoms they take for granted are engaging in such behaviour. For them it means very little, some titilation before school perhaps or just a means to gain favour or interest from their boy or girlfriend? There is little point trying to make the case to them about the pitfalls of doing so and the usual, it will come back to haunt you speech. Society is on a downward spiral and this is another symptom of it. I have difficulty in thinking how the next generation born of these kids will fare in the world with parents like them!

  3. 3 Ramesh, India
    August 4, 2009 at 14:46

    If parents are worried about children’s mobile activities and yet want them to hold a mobile phone for 24 hour contact purpose, they should consider giving them non-camera phones with memory in KBs, not in MBs or GBs!

  4. August 4, 2009 at 14:53

    sad…the truth is that the enemy has seduced the entire world to bow down to our carnal desires and it is not just on the internet. just look at all the advertising that surrounds us. every product sells itself by implying that if you buy that product some beautiful woman or man will be yours! ironic? or truth! we allowed politicians to take GOD out of our lives and satan moved right in!

  5. 6 Tom K in Mpls
    August 4, 2009 at 15:00

    It’s simply an issue of parental control and press hype. Cell phones are new, sex isn’t. Neither is the teenage desire to explore anything new, especially if it’s forbidden. Many young parents are told to enable their children, to let them be free to explore. It gets passed by the press without recommending limits. This started in about the late 1950s. Since then, you can see a clear social trend towards less accountability in attitudes, laws and even in accident forgiveness car insurance.

    The specifics don’t matter, but we need more accountability in all aspects of our society. And it is not up to our laws, but our parents.

  6. August 4, 2009 at 15:05

    Sexual communication online and on mobiles isn’t new. There are many people, including teenagers, who use the webcam to send sexually expletive images of themselves. The mobile photos and videos have made it more easy for anyone to establish sexual communication.

    Concerning sexting among children , it can be damaging to them. Children need sexual education to abstain from sex or to have safe sex when they’re above 16. However, sexting can expose them to more sexual risks as they can view themselves as sexual objects and the way to impose themselves is by projecting themselves as sexually desirable.

    In schools, for example, as a result of sexting, children can have just sex as their main gossip , not just by words but also by showing images. As children aren’t allowed to be seen in indecent positions in public, it goes without saying it is damaging for them to have their bodies revealed to strangers and the object of sexual comments. Maybe, they must be told they can reveal their bodies to their trusted friends who can see them directly and not to be sent as an image that can be seen by anyone. The beholder can keep the picture in their head instead of the mobile phone!

  7. 8 Phil in Germany
    August 4, 2009 at 15:15

    I think it’s a common trend,. that children start to become and/or behave like adults more and more early. So it’s completely clear, that they become interested in sex maybe earlier than in former times. Besides of that, in our liberal western society there is much talk about that topic. Many people talk about “oversexualization of society”. On the hand it’s good to be able to talk freely about it, but on the other hand many don’t know how to have a relationship itself.
    We will see the result of all this in the future. Wether they are positive or more negative, I cannot judge.

  8. 9 steve
    August 4, 2009 at 15:27

    Another case of not thinking about consequences of actions. One day, that “sext” you sent can come back to haunt you when you run for office or are going for a high profile job.

  9. 10 Helen
    August 4, 2009 at 15:31

    I was a teenager. It doesn’t sound like a new phenomena. They seem to be doing the same thing teenagers have been doing in the past hundred years. Quite awhile ago girls who were 14 were marriageable. So with or without the added feature of the cellphone it sounds like the same old thing. Before they playyed Spim the Bottle. But even though this is a popular story I don’t think the teenagers made any revolutionary discoveries.

  10. 11 John in Salem
    August 4, 2009 at 15:34

    It depends on what you mean by “damaging”. If you mean that they aren’t being subjected to the same post-Victorian hang-ups and neuroses of our generations I would agree. If you mean they’re being handed information that they are unequipped to deal with I would say no.
    It’s very relative. When I was a child, most of what we see today on an average soap opera would only have been available to see in an adult theater with an X rating. Government censors crawled the lots and studios of the major producers, reviewing all the scripts and striving to make everything “Disney clean”. It was absurd and insulting.
    I would submit that much of what we see today is a direct result of the backlash against that effort to control our morals through the media, and that attempts to repeat that, to manipulate media and restrict access to information, will produce the same result – directly the opposite of what we would try to achieve.
    It is the overreaction to “sexting” that is doing the most damage here, not the messages or images being sent.

    • 12 Helen
      August 4, 2009 at 16:59

      Teenagers have raging hormones. The phenomenon of casual sex is damaging at any age because it amounts to objectifying and devaluing the person being used or abused for sexual gratification. True,both parties may equally basely satisfying lust. But with teenagers,the boys learn this works,this empty sex is gratifying. You often don’t grow beyond that point when it seems to be the end you wanted and got. Fro girls it teaches them they are sex objects(media does that already)and girls often think a male loves them when they have sex. And it is damaging to be used for someone’s selfish reasons. It is unhealthy and there are more healthy and meaningful ways to bond with our peers. I was spoiled I think. My boyfriend in highschool was my best friend and it was a 7 year relationship.

  11. 13 Nigel
    August 4, 2009 at 15:34

    Children shouldn’ have mobile ‘phones in the first place. This is a terrible misuse of a wonderful technology that has become a fashion and now is becoming almost a human appendage that starts growing even before the teens and pubity. The argument that it gives kids fast and direct access to information is far outweighed by the bad that they are doing. Ban them at schools!

  12. 14 Helen
    August 4, 2009 at 15:46

    This kind of contact is unhealthy because it of course inevitably ends up the way a bar pick-up does. And casual sex is emotionally damaging and also destructive to healthy relationship development. Forming good and supportive relationships with teenage boyfriends or girlfriends provides a needed tool for future healthy and more permanent relationships. Then there are the lucky ones who marry their highschool sweetheart and are happy in a lifelong romance. Romance over sex with someone who doesn’t care about you?I’m checking the box next to Romance,myself.

  13. 15 Anthony
    August 4, 2009 at 15:46

    I think the internet is a MUCH worse culprit. I think we need to worry more about people of ALL ages not being able to communicate correctly nor deeply because of texting.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  14. August 4, 2009 at 15:50

    I think most everything has become increasingly sexualized in my lifetime and it is natural that teens interact with this sexed-up environment in the most synergistic way. After all, they have raging hormones, a lot of curiosity, a propensity to rebel against seemingly senseless social codes and little experience upon which to base their decisions.

    I hope people don’t place blame on technology for the surprising amount of sexual activity found among teens. This sexualization of pretty much everything has a massive amount of cultural momentum behind it and to single out anything as its cause is silly. However, at the same time I would also never underestimate the roll that advertisers have played in the sexualization of our society. So much of marketing is about exciting our caveperson instincts to the point where some basic lust overrides rationality and drives us to spend money it a way that is not exactly in our own best interests.

    If you feel you must crack down on something in an attempt to reshape society, ban sexual advertising not sexts. I don’t think even the most draconian censorship laws or technological restrictions would ever put the sex genie back in the bottle. And with limits on advertising at least people would stand a better chance of acting a bit more rationally in the marketplace and that is something that we would all really benefit from these days.

  15. 17 Jennifer
    August 4, 2009 at 16:02

    I think we are wrong to single out mobile phones. Children are exposed to all sorts of things. We are all assaulted with a huge amount of “sexual” things from advertising (sex sells) to adult stores, in movies, on the Internet; sex is just everything.

    Children today are overexposed to sexual themed content. As a parent; it would be so hard to have to try to combat these blatant attempts to shove things at us using sex as a sales technique.

    This is where PARENTS must be PARENTS!

    • August 4, 2009 at 20:11

      I agree totally, but when parents dont have a model to follow they are as lost as their children sometimes worst than their own children. TKS. for those that think like you.

  16. August 4, 2009 at 16:12

    I think that the sexting issue is part of the larger interaction between children and the media. I think that the media has been impacting the way that our children develop psychologically and how they interact with each other and the rest of the world for several years now. To be perfectly honest, what bothers me the most is the level of violence that is portrayed in so-called “children’s programming” – both physical and emotional violence. I myself have observed that even violence which is portrayed as beneficial causes young viewers to act more violently with each other for no apparent reason. The amount of sexual content that is broadcast in such a way that our youth consume it is also troublesome to me. We have half-naked women who look like starvation victims on our magasine covers, media-based youngsters becoming romantically emotional over each other on screen, and coert sexual innuendo throughout daytime programming that our children observe and try to imitate.

    When tools are placed into the hands of those who have grown up surrounded by images of violence and sexuality, of course they will react by expressing themselves violently and sexually using those tools.

    The nonsense has to stop. If we are going to call it children’s programming, then let it truly be children’s programming, not watered-down violence and sleeze.

  17. 20 gary
    August 4, 2009 at 16:17

    Sorry about that. My last post is too wordy. To summarize; learning about sex any way possible isn’t all bad; but pictures without suitable explanations do more harm than good. Children aren’t skilled at time management; rules must be imposed to prevent playing with a cell phone from interfering with more developmentally productive activities.

  18. 21 patti in cape coral
    August 4, 2009 at 16:22

    Didn’t our ancestors used to be married and have three children by the age of 15? And that was before anyone even spoke to them about sex, although they obviously figured it out. Sex isn’t new, neither is interest in sex. What seems new to me is now a photo that is meant to be private can be seen by an entire school in a matter of minutes. Also some kids don’t seem to mind if many people see their photos, almost as if they were advertising themselves. This is disturbing because it seems to me that sex should be a very personal thing that is driven a person’s own interest and feelings, etc. These kids don’t seem to be heeding their own feelings and just letting themselves be shepherded along with others into behaving a certain way without any introspection. As always, I definitely believe it starts with parents being vigilant and lots and lots of communication. I think you have to be at least a little open-minded if you want your children to feel free to talk to you about anything, and you have to realize you aren’t always going to like what you hear.

  19. 22 Steve in Boston
    August 4, 2009 at 16:26

    It’s not the cell phones, it’s the permissive western society. Cell phones for kids are an absolute necessity in today’s world. You can shut off texting and other features, but anyone who thinks a parent can singlehandedly control what their kids are doing in school or at friends’ houses, has not raised a teenager.

    What we need around here is to import some Sudanese police to start handing out 40 lashes. That’s sort of tongue-in-cheek, but really, we need to bring corporal punishment back into the schools and homes. Anyone who has been on this planet for 50 years or more can see the terrible direction things are headed. Too many kids are completely out of control.

  20. 23 Shaun in Halifax
    August 4, 2009 at 16:28

    I’m not sure if it’s harming children’s sexual development, but I’m sure following this with a little bit of amusement.

    Now I was pretty dumb when I was a youngster, but even I had more foresight than to post dirty images of myself on the internet. There was always a little voice in my head saying, Hey, this is the Internet. Nothing ever goes away on the ‘net. Maybe you should be wary about what you post. Have any of these idiot kids thought about what will happen in 10 or 12 years time when they go out to find jobs? Especially jobs in the public sector or in the spotlight?

    This goes double for the young ladies… as we have a double standard, like it or not. Imagine being on the short list for possible CEOs of a large company, and suddenly a grainy, low-rez picture of you flashing your bits starts circulating the office. Suddenly the short list is one name shorter, and the glass ceiling has shrunk a few feet.

  21. 24 Tom
    August 4, 2009 at 16:35

    As technology allows our children to do and experience more things earlier in life, it is the parents job to be more involved than ever. Unfortunatley, I see that it is slipping the oposite direction, more parents are just too worried about their kids liking them, so they spoil their kids.

  22. 25 Anthony
    August 4, 2009 at 17:06

    Sexts can include sexual fake pictures of cartoon characters, so I think that statistic is blown majorly out of proportion.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  23. 26 steve
    August 4, 2009 at 17:06

    How are cell phones an absolute “necessity” for kids today? I grew up without them, my parents grew up without them. In fact, back when I was in high school, if you so much as had a pager, you would get arrested, and the cell phones of the day, if you could even afford them, which only the richest could, were the size of walkee talkies that the military would use. You don’t “need” a cell phone as a child.

  24. 27 Steve in Boston
    August 4, 2009 at 17:17


    When I grew up we didn’t have computers, the internet, fax machines, microwave ovens or touch tone phones. Even television was brand new. We did fine without them, but once you have them there’s no going back. It’s like Pandora’s box. Society and it’s standards change forever

    With two working parents, your child has to have a cell phone for emergencies. In fact, I dare say that if your child was harmed due to an emergency that a simple cell phone would have prevented, you would be charged by Social Services with neglect–and it would be true.

    • 28 Helen
      August 4, 2009 at 17:45

      I agree. With all the no-landline homes and the family cellphone deals it would be hard for there not to be a substantial number of teens without one. I think there’s a little Eric Cartman in all of us;”we have to have it to be cool,mom”. You can’t dictate the harmless things about us as a group. There are more siniister and negative things I’d change if I could. I think most of us commenting here don’t just accept things as thet are. And the main question from WHY’S is”is it damaging childrens sexual development?”No. But the better idea is that children or teens need to know more to it that does hurt them,if not now then later. Sexual contact that is not meaningful is harmful. I think there is more in our environment that is harmful and not healthy. Children and teens need guidance they can understand and accept. Ordering them to do something is not successful.

  25. 29 steve
    August 4, 2009 at 17:24

    How much do I have to bet the kids are learning this from their parents anyways? Remember that old Marijuana commericial, the father asks his son how he learned about pot, and the kid says “i learned from watching you!”

    • 30 Helen
      August 4, 2009 at 17:49

      Good point Steve. I never saw my parents Do It,but I bet lots of kids walked in when mom and(hopefully)dad were doing the horizontal mamba.

  26. 31 Elias
    August 4, 2009 at 17:40

    All successfull inventions and innovations are very good when introduced in our daily lives, each and every one of them effects us for the good or the worse.

    Theres nothing wrong for grown ups and children being shown sextual information, we have the choice of taking it or leaving it, so we can decide which is good and which is bad. It is the price we pay for progress.

  27. 32 Tracy in Portland, OR
    August 4, 2009 at 17:41

    It is a simple matter of parental supervision. I have a friend who requires her daughter to supply her with the password to her facebook account. No open access for Mom and daughter doesn’t get computer access. A periodic check of your teens phone will determine if they are using it responsibly. Or simply do not put text service on their phone. If they cannot call and speak to the person they wish to communicate they are probably somewhere they chouldn’t be texting anyway(like in class). Teens have enough distractions to get them in trouble. They could be texting while driving. Thay are not as savy about protecting their personal information to public access. They are children not adults, they do not need all the privledges adults have. Nor the wide array of freedom that could lead to bad decisions that may come back to haunt them for a lifetime.

    Portland OR

  28. 33 Orsi from Hungary
    August 4, 2009 at 17:41

    I agree that teenagers shouldn’t have high quality (and high prize!!) mobile phones with cameras and internet acces. However, unfortunately mobile phones are status symbols nowdays and it can be embarassing for the child if he has an “old” mobile while the other mates have a new one. So this is a tricky situation.
    I would like to think however that teenagers with a harmonious family background and good relationship with their family and friends don’t find it neccessary to engage in these pornographic things. They should realize that having a normal sexual relationship when the time has come for it is much better than “sext”-s..
    At least I hope so and I hope that my child will realize this… 🙂

  29. 34 halfnots
    August 4, 2009 at 17:47

    This topic?

    I am baffled as to why you needed that introductory paragraph—justifying discussing this topic. Not certain why this is different from the many other seemingly trite and half-baked topics we discuss. Those topics are actually totally fine by me—despite the tone of my language. Silly topics sometimes have interesting concepts, provided you handle them effectively. I assure you the world isn’t “above” this one.

  30. 35 steve
    August 4, 2009 at 17:49

    @ Steve in Boston

    Both of my parents’ worked. The difference between no computer and a commodore 64 which I had growing up was not that huge, I could have gone back to no computer. In fact all I did was play games on it. Even if we had no computers today, we could use typewriters. I took a typing class in high school, and we learned on typewriters way back in 1990. I survived with two working parents, having no cell phone. There was a phone at home, and they have payphones in public. Honestly, how can a cell phone be “essential” now when it would have been an arrestable offense when I was in high school?

  31. 36 Sena
    August 4, 2009 at 17:51

    This is not new ,and if we want evacuate these problem parent should seized cell phone from their children or governmet should set rules to the moblie manufactures to elimilate some accessories like camera,bluetooth,infared,among others in order to avoid these things.

  32. 37 Anthony
    August 4, 2009 at 18:00

    Here’s a crazy idea, just get your kid a phone WITHOUT INCOMING PICS. Wow, crazy idea huh. Plus those kind are EXTREMELY cheap.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  33. 38 Jonathan in Portland
    August 4, 2009 at 18:06

    I think we’re running into yet another massively overblown moral panic where there is a massive media response over a relative non-issue. As a member of the chat-room and mobile phone generation , I can say from my experience that this response smacks of neo-victorian commentators decrying the “moral decay” of society without understanding that the world changes and we change with it. Teenagers and university students are filled with rather powerful hormones desiring physical intimacy and have always and will always utilize whatever technology that is at their fingertips to achieve it. Lets have an honest discussion without demonizing the young generation for just being themselves.

    • 39 Helen
      August 4, 2009 at 18:15

      Yes Jonathon. But as a society after all this time we haven’t got it right. Children with one parent children with bad parents,divorve,worse things that we do to each other. Isn’t it still the same old problem and we want to get it right. Victorianism was bad because it is oppressive and repressing normal appetites creates an imbalance. With all our tech and means to communicate available,maybe we can start to get it right if we try. The keyword here is try. To dismiss and ignore means”same ol’ same ol’ “. I think we all agree there’s room for improvement.

  34. 40 Mike in Seattle
    August 4, 2009 at 18:16

    Oh awesome, yet another story to panic the milquetoast masses!

    Look, if you have kids, sit down and talk to them about not doing stupid things. Don’t be like America and selectively punish the cheerleaders while ignoring the football team. Don’t be scared of technology, and don’t flip out over a few concentual pictures.

    Calm down, take the long view and teach your children to do the same.

  35. 41 stgermain in Silicon Valley
    August 4, 2009 at 18:17

    Teens have been exploring their sexuality via various methods
    in the past – this is the modern equivalent moving forward. I don’t
    have the statistics immediately available, however there was a
    report addressing semi-nude/nude and in some cases highly sexual
    poses and actions being posed on the internet. I cannot believe that
    any modern teen doesn’t understand what they are doing – perhaps
    not the >>future<< ramifications, but certainly what they are doing
    at the moment.

    What causes me great concern at least here in the US is the
    criminalisation of the sexting and making these teens into
    registered sex offenders causing then true lifetime irreversible
    damage. But then again, we here in the USA have never moved
    past the Puritan influence.

  36. 42 ecotopian
    August 4, 2009 at 18:19

    Oh good god. We adults don’t understand. Actually, we do. We really were teenagers once and as far as I can tell, the only thing that has changed is technology not the raging hormonal feelings that go with adolescence. But, hey, if you want to put compromising pictures of yourself on the web, go right ahead. If it leads to you being labeled unfavorably, you only have yourself to blame.

    I see absolutely no reason to continue listening. I do talk to my kids about sex, just like my own mother talked to me about it. Open communication is the only way to go with issue of sex and teens. If parents can’t talk to their kids and visa versa, it’s no wonder there are problems. Parents, stop being so skittish when it comes to sex. Unless, you’re OK with this kind of behavior.

  37. 43 Keith
    August 4, 2009 at 18:20

    These pictures get sent to one person, and sometimes can be spread to the whole school, potentially ruining a poor girl’s life, who just made a mistake. Let’s be honest though, it’s not some big surprise that high school and college kids are sexually active. They have been for a hundred years, and to pretend otherwise is wishful thinking. People just decide things need to change once their own kids are in high school. Communicate with your kids and make sure they understand the consequences of their actions.

  38. 44 halfnots
    August 4, 2009 at 18:22

    Is it the text or the teen?

    Overuse of technological devices is a badge of mediocrity in both adults and youths. An electronic device doesn’t inherently do or cause anything. Our loutish obsession with discussing the impact of technology is as uninteresting as the technology itself. Don’t worry our precious society (unfortunately) isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

  39. 45 steve
    August 4, 2009 at 18:23

    Children shouldn’t be allowed to have cellphones until they become driving age. They simply don’t need phones. And let’s not forget, how are these kids getting phones? Their parents are getting the phones for them, as minors, they cannot form a valid contract with the provider, so the parents are the ones actually doing this.

  40. 46 Tara Ballance, Montreal
    August 4, 2009 at 18:23

    Haroun, you’re assuming that I’m a stay-at-home mother. I work, and have worked since my son was 4 months old. He’s 28 now, and believe me, if cell phones had been available when he was 10 or 11 years old, I would have got him one.

    It would have been invaluable the time he was on the subway and the whole system was shut down because of a bomb threat. Or the time my car broke down and I couldn’t come pick him up at our meeting point.

  41. 47 Lane in Portland (OPB)
    August 4, 2009 at 18:24

    The bottom line is this: the younger generations are not going to get “old” phones. We’re not going to reverse technology. Sexual curiosity will always exist.

    The only viable and positive path forward is for kids to realize how dangerously public the brave new facebook world is becoming. Whether that’s learned through strictly enforced child pornography laws, or just good old-fashion life experience, eventually young society will catch up to its technology.

  42. 48 Orsi from Hungary
    August 4, 2009 at 18:24

    Thank you for reading out my comment!!
    I think it’s not a question of age whether a child should have a mobile, it depends on the maturity, the attitude, the school or friend-environment and the upbringing of the child. Based on these factors the parent has to decide whether it is neccessary and appropriate for the child to have a mobile. No doubt it’s useful but it has to be clearly defined what the child can use it for..

  43. 49 Todd in Atlanta
    August 4, 2009 at 18:25

    You always have to keep an eye on your kids regardless of what technology is out there, or what time period you live in. Kids are, by nature, knuckleheads, and they’re guaranteed to do dumb stuff.

    If this ‘issue’ is turning into cases of child-porn, then crack-down on that. It seems to me that the root of these problems is a total lack of in-depth sex education, as it applies to modern times. Prosecuting kids for doing dumb stuff that they invariably do, is stupid. Have those discussions about the things these kids will inevitably be faced with, early in life… and secure your cell-phones for god’s sake!!!

  44. 50 Leslie
    August 4, 2009 at 18:26

    Listening online in Portland Oregon. My daughter is now 18. When she was younger – she was a latch-key child. We provided her with a cel phone at quite a young age. It was a phone with a lockable address book, unable to get pictures, and you could lock it to call the address book only. I would unlock the phone to call any one only on weekends. And when I re-locked it at the end of the weekends, I went thru all the calls. That was the deal she had to accept to be able to have the phone. If she wouldn’t agree – she wouldn’t get the phone at all.

    Like I said – she is now 18 – and we got her there with no creepy people messing with her.

  45. August 4, 2009 at 18:26

    Please please please can we add some subtelty to this debate. “Sexting” is a huge term – it encompasses young bullies spreading around personal graphic images without consent of the subject, sex offenders passing on explicit images of children and two teenagers in love sharing an appreciation of each other’s bodies with trust and consent. You can’t say sexting is good or bad – it completely depends on the context.

  46. 52 Angelina
    August 4, 2009 at 18:27

    It’s true that sexting has become so common these days(even in the most conservative of places) that if you don’t do it,you are considered abnormal! Mobile phones have contributed largely to the quick spread of sexually explicit content which is so easily accessible online.They do damage sexual development.

    The worst part is that men often click photos of girls,even on the streets.These then make their way online.
    As a member of the young generation,I think it’s not possible to stop this sort of sex obsession.Very few can resist the lure of a few minutes of fame on the Internet.

  47. 53 Liz in Chicago
    August 4, 2009 at 18:27

    On the question of what age is too early to have a cell phone: there are no options anymore! there are basically no payphones around anymore. the days of a child going to the park or movies with her friends and calling her mother to from a payphone for a pickup are over. give them a cellphone…unless you want them asking the strangers around them to use their cellphones…

  48. 54 Keith
    August 4, 2009 at 18:30

    Also, I agree with the speaker that says “this is hardly a new concept- mobile phones are just facilitating it”. Phones aren’t the problem, if they didn’t do it on their phones, they would (and do) do it on the internet, which is arguably worse. The problem is that humans’ hormones kick in before they have the sense to know how to protect themselves. Keeping phones/internet out of kids’ hands is unsustainable, considering the importance of these tools in today’s society. Good parenting is the best way to prevent this from happening.
    Be straightforward, bring up sexting, and make sure they know how this behavior can ruin their future (both professionally and in future relationships).

  49. 55 Bhumir Patel, MN (USA)
    August 4, 2009 at 18:33

    Is it possible to get some teens on the line and have discussion with them to find out why they are sending these photos?

    It would be nice to find out their reason behind sharing these photos and have they thought about the risks?

  50. 56 Katharine rutherford
    August 4, 2009 at 18:33

    You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Civilization and mankind will adapt, conform and evolve around technology just it always has. However, technology will eventually be the death of us all.

  51. 57 Nathaniel in Indianapolis
    August 4, 2009 at 18:33

    I am a 17 year old and have, like all young people in my area, a cell phone with camera/video and bluetooth capabilities. I find the “sexting” phenomenon a symptom of the photograph-addicted people of my generation, with things like facebook encouraging so much self-portraiture, and so much encouragement of sex in the media, of course this will happen. Education is the key to discouraging this sad issue.

  52. 58 Jeanette in the US
    August 4, 2009 at 18:34

    The only thing damaging teenagers sexual development is the idea that sex is a bad thing; an unnatural thing; a thing to be made criminal and taboo and a thing to punish. This world-wide interest in hiding from the reality of sexuality is hampering both physical an mental health in every age group. We can’t say that sex is “dangerous” or that mobile phones play a “dangerous role” in sexuality when all people are doing is seeing body parts.

    August 4, 2009 at 18:36

    Children do not need cell fones and neither do adults all the time. I have censored my communication to the bare essential. What does that mean? I have found that I do not need to spend more than a dollar a week to do all the essential communicating on average.
    That’s me. As for kids, all these electronics are not essential to learning and they hamper concentration. What happens is that the brain learns that you are putting to much garbage in your memory and initiates an erasure mechanism which wipes a lot of data; images, sounds, shades of color and what have you so that you do not go mad. I tend to think that the brain may perfect the wiping-off survival tactic even when you are engaged on something valuable. It is all happening in the gray matter behind your eyeball without your knowledge. It’s very common to see a lot of people who cannot even remember what they heard one minute ago. For a pupil or student, this is a disaster really when you need to assimilate ideas from your teacher or professor so that you can succeed in your course.

    You need to be a clean slate or a blank page to fill valuable knowledge for your future.

  54. 60 tenpoundhammer
    August 4, 2009 at 18:36

    I think this conversation really brings up the point of are the pictures such a big deal or is it our understanding and feelings about nudity ? If some one was a nudist and received a naked picture of their daughter, they would just say oh she’s playing volley ball, hope she’s having fun. Maybe we should all change the way nudity is perceived in our society and that would eliminate the problem entirely.

  55. 61 Sena,Takoradi
    August 4, 2009 at 18:36

    goverment should give an order for communication network to mornitor every individual phone cos its the chip that makes one to operate a phone,so that if u are found ,u must be fine.

  56. 62 nora
    August 4, 2009 at 18:37

    Internet Censorship is seen by teens as Big Brother. The child-blocks keep some adult porn out on-line, so part of this generation is making their rebellion by flipping off the censorship of nudity and adult hypocracy.

  57. 63 Everett
    August 4, 2009 at 18:37

    In response to the man who said it’s not an issue, I thought the same thing until I actually started talking about it with my friends and a few had dozens of videos and pictures that were beyond anything you can see on websites showing erotic pictures for wallpapers. I was amazed at the material they saved on their phones and thought no one would ever even consider doing that but for them it was an everyday occurence.

  58. 64 Tom D Ford
    August 4, 2009 at 18:37

    “Much ado about nothing”, Bill S, in one of his great plays.

  59. 65 niroj maharjan
    August 4, 2009 at 18:37

    now its impossible to make children inaccessible to pornography or adult contents. banning children from mobile phones will not reduce their vulnerability to sex. it they want sex, they will get it without use of mobile phones. What we have to think and do is to teach our children about sex and its consequences.

  60. 66 steve
    August 4, 2009 at 18:39

    Here are the consequences. Mary, when she was 15, has a picture of herself performing oral sex on her boyfriend at that time. 15 years later, Mary decides to run for political office. These pictures are introduced during the campaign. Do you think that this will help or hurt her campaign given those pictures will be available for everyone to view?

    Or say you were applying for a certain job? Say you were to work at some health organization, promoting safe sex, and there’s a pic of you not practicing safe sex?

    With the growing narcissism of people, I think this is goin to be perhaps so common, that it may not in fact impact anything, given so many people are doing it. it will be almost considered normal for people to do this, kind of like 75 years ago, “free love” and one night stands would have been considered unimaginable.

  61. 67 Arie, Washington D.C.
    August 4, 2009 at 18:39

    It is often difficult for young people to take the long-view of their actions. The latest, smart-looking mobile becomes somewhat superfluous when a break-up later, photos sent in confidence are used in bitterness to publicly humiliate. This is why we have parents, teachers and family to promote intelligent behaviour and instill common sense.

  62. 68 Danielle in Singapore
    August 4, 2009 at 18:40

    I agree with the general stand as put forward by the speakers that mobile phones are considered a necessity for teenagers nowadays.

    What is needed is responsibility on the part of teenagers/children, that they know what they should do with their mobile phone, and the consequences that may follow if they choose to use it for the wrong reasons. Parents also have to be sure their children will act maturely with the mobile phones given to them.

    – Danielle, Singapore

  63. 69 steve
    August 4, 2009 at 18:40

    @ Nora

    perhaps if teens spent more time reading books, like 1984, and actually knew what Big Brother is, than sending naked pictures of each other, they might have a better basis to come to these conclusions .

  64. 70 halfnots
    August 4, 2009 at 18:41

    Sex is the least of youths problems!

    If we can get the thrills of our animal sexuality over with at a young age, maybe we can become jaded on sex and move onto some other things.

  65. 71 Everett
    August 4, 2009 at 18:41

    I am 21 so this was happening 3 to 4 years ago and it was just a few of my friends but was sent to at least 10 people in his phone and so on and so forth. So even though I don’t like to admit it, there are people out there who do crazy things for a laugh or gloat.

  66. 72 Tom D Ford
    August 4, 2009 at 18:41

    It is not cell phones that are the problem, the problem is the Conservative Religionists that teach people to be ashamed of and feel guilty about their bodies.

    “If man were meant to be naked, he would have been born that way”, Oscar Wilde.

  67. 73 Alyssa
    August 4, 2009 at 18:43

    First off, I am not a teenager. But this might be relevant for concerned parents…If you call your cell phone company (at least in the US) you can have them put a block on various features such as sending and receiving text messages and photos and accessing the internet from the cell phone. I do this so I don’t have to pay for unwanted text messages or accidentally get other charges by pressing the wrong button. I only want to use my cell phone as a phone and so far have no interest in text messaging – much to the irritation of my friends who are addicted to it and want to convert me.

  68. 74 Jeanette in the US
    August 4, 2009 at 18:44

    And, to expand, the idea that being sexual means you have no self respect is ludicrous; it’s anti-female, anti-sex propaganda.

  69. 75 nur hassan
    August 4, 2009 at 18:44

    yes why not mobile phones play a major of damaging sexual development so parents should not allow their children to buy mobile phones look Islamic religion
    this is Nur Hassan in Kampala

  70. 76 Ali
    August 4, 2009 at 18:44

    i would sayt at 16 kids should be allowed to get phones. once they get a car and are able to drive. and i believe that pictures and texts are a way of expressing yourself where normally you wouldn’t be able to in person. Kids may not be able to express themselves and i feel that this is a way to become more comfortable with their sexuality.

  71. 77 steve
    August 4, 2009 at 18:47

    Your guest brings up a good point, what happens when the relationship ends? Fact is, most of your relations are going to end. Someone should tell young people about this.

  72. August 4, 2009 at 18:47

    The solution is either to not take pictures with your head on it or compel technology companies to give more power to users over their content (which is a daunting task, politically and technically).

    Michael in Portland, OR USA

  73. 79 Stephen in Portland/Oregon
    August 4, 2009 at 18:49

    Using a phone camera to take porno pictures is a disgrace!
    There just not good enough quality. Digital cameras work way better

  74. 80 anonymous norwegian
    August 4, 2009 at 18:49

    I know of websites that publish private pictures that have been stolen or sent in by ex boyfriends. Theres 1000’s of pictures on the net, that should not be there.

  75. August 4, 2009 at 18:51

    This is simply a lesson for a child. If a girl or a boy sending these kind of pictures, then she or he takes full responsibility for it. This is how they learn NOT to do it again!

    As simple as that.

  76. 82 margaret
    August 4, 2009 at 18:51

    Well I’m thrilled we did not have this capability when I was growing up. Regular bullying was bad enough. Also teens and kids in general tend to be irresponsible despite the fact that in the old days and in some cultures now they would already be married, on their own and starting families in the mid teens. Now that an image or video can go viral in minutes it is a very potentially dangerous development in the wrong hands and there are far too many of them if you ask me. Also, indiscreet photos and webpostings are being scanned for now by employers and the like and you could potentially ruin your future with such material. This is magnified many times if it is something that is done in a malicious manner.

  77. 83 Reverend McCormack
    August 4, 2009 at 18:52

    Listening online.

    The age of the child academic, the maturity level is what is important.

    what on earth are shcools thinking allowing telephones in the classroom? I have no doubt the reason children are are doing so awfully in school is because they are textng when they should be learning.

    Why is it impossible to find a telephone that hasn’t got texting and camera and all theat garbage? If one could do so I should suggest that only this type of model given to them.

  78. 84 Tom D Ford
    August 4, 2009 at 18:53

    Explain why sending the photos?

    Are you kidding?

    I remember when the book “Tropic of Cancer” (I think that was the title), came out, a book banned and censored all over, and some kid brought a copy to seventh grade and we all pored over the “sexy” parts trying to imagine what it was all about.

    Mankind evolved to be sexually attracted to each other and pretending that is shameful and wrong is the problem.

    People explore the mysterious and making human bodies and sex mysterious by Religionists banning them and pretending that they are shameful creates the problem.

  79. August 4, 2009 at 18:53

    Is this young people’s – “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” in a modern age?

    Is it a case of modern technology not servicing the needs of pubescent children?

  80. 86 nora
    August 4, 2009 at 18:54


    You are not hanging out with intelligent, fresh, inquiring, self-educating teens, and, by the way, in California you have to read Orwell to get a High School Diploma. After 8 years of Bush, they know who Big Brother is.

    Teens Google what they can but they ask real people and look in books for deeper answers. Teens have acquitted themselves beautifully ON THIS SHOW.

  81. 87 stgermain in Silicon Valley
    August 4, 2009 at 18:55

    Here’s a side question: So what happens when
    20 years (read: In The Future) this has become
    a “mainstream” or accepted part of adolescent
    life and times? When the pix living forever on
    the net is a big yawn with a “Who Cares” perspective
    because so many have done it at that point?

  82. 88 Phyllis , Naples Florida
    August 4, 2009 at 18:55

    One long term consequence here in the US is that many employers do background checks of potential employees .
    People have been excluded from jobs because of potential employers discovering pictures of them online.

  83. 89 Alison from Seattle
    August 4, 2009 at 18:57

    i have personally sent photos to my bf, and vice versa. Most people dont share photos in my experiences. sex texts and sexy photos are mostly a private experience among people my age (21). If Kids arent responsible enough to have phone with all of these applications and such. They make phones for kids that have 4 numbers on them and are only used for emergencies. I understand those but a child under the age of 15 doesn’t need a phone. My parents had blocks on our computers if we wanted to go to inappropriate sites, my brothers and i had a “kids” phone that we took out with us when we went to the movies or something but we had to share it and return it when we got home. Be responsible and make good choices, but once a child gets towards the end of HS and on to college or university i feel that understanding their sexuality is a part of life and at 17-19 they should be allowed to do whatever they want on their phones. Just coming from experience.

  84. 90 Louisa
    August 4, 2009 at 18:58

    Mobile phones have provided easy access for teens to exchange ideas,pictures,jokes etc. which can be both good and bad.What today’s kids have lost is self-control.Adults themselves cannot resist temptation,and when it comes to sexual content,it’s exciting for children to exchange stuff like this even if some are repulsed by the very concept of it;they can’t help doing what they do.Adults should try to help them in a constructive way by guiding them to use mobile phones properly,otherwise there is a chance for mobile phones to damage our children’s sexual development.

  85. 91 Phil
    August 4, 2009 at 18:59

    I’m not entirely sure that children today are as oblivious to the consequences as most people seem to think. Instead, I believe the issue falls more importantly on an understand of what “trust” is. When having a misguided understanding of trust, the “consequences” of sexting don’t apply. Trust is very much an emotional mechanism, and in a society that often seperates the emotional from the physical, it becomes easy for a teen to believe that being physically intimate inherently contains the idea of trust.

  86. 92 Angelina
    August 4, 2009 at 19:18

    As a young girl,I feel overwhelmed by all the sex-oriented stuff around me.One just can’t avoid it.
    Once teens get exposed to this sort of thing,it’s really addictive.And that has grave consequences…

    Youngsters are so much into sex these days-often,it’s the main topic of conversation.Damaging.

  87. 93 Michael
    August 4, 2009 at 19:26

    In ghanaian universities we’re having a problem with thatt kinda thing with guys using digital cameras, phones and laptops to take videos of girls while having sex with them in order to humiliate them. Its gotten so bad we get more n one every few days. E guys say its payback.

  88. 94 Keith
    August 4, 2009 at 19:30

    For those who don’t think it’s a big deal… If I were dating a girl and found out that sexy pictures of her were in the phones/computers of all our friends (from an ex-boyfriend or something), I just don’t think I could deal with it. I know it’s awful, but it would just tear me apart inside, and I’m pretty liberal. I just sent a message to my girlfriend telling her to never do it for me or anyone else, ever, on principle. (we’re in college, fyi)

  89. 95 Ofeibea, Ghana
    August 4, 2009 at 20:03

    i don’t think so cos in Ghana, children in the rural areas appear to be more sexually active than their peers in the urban area who have access to technological gadgets.

    yes they maybe well exposed to sex and sexuality to a large extent, they also know what they can do to not damage their sexual development via the phone.

    i do not think the mobile phone is damaging the sexual development of our children.

  90. 96 archibald
    August 4, 2009 at 22:12

    I thought that maybe the title suggested that cell phones are harmful to teenage sexual development on a physiological and I was interested. The fact that parents are concerned about pornography turning their kids into sexual deviants or in some way removing their innocence. Who dropped the ball on raising their children with the ability to make informed choices in their budding lives, PARENTS!!!!!!
    Do not blame cell phones…….

  91. 97 T
    August 4, 2009 at 22:52

    Does anyone see the double standard here? Some are criticizing teens for taking nude pics and sending them. But then you have some celebs taping sexual encounters and saying “it’s nobody else’s business.” What’s the difference?

  92. 98 Deryck/Trinidad
    August 5, 2009 at 02:04

    The abuse of mobile phones is damaging children and won’t change soon. There is no real answer to stopping this problem since the use of 3G cell phones are addictive.

  93. 99 Beau
    August 5, 2009 at 06:48

    This disparity between the sublime improvements in technology
    and the depravity of humans is interesting. It also seems to be
    quite global where most humans are melting down into this
    amorphous, rudimentary, sludge of primordial matter. It certainly
    adds support to my theory that humanity reached its peak in
    Arcadia in the time of Pericles when the Parthenon was built
    and Socrates devised the public dialectic. It has surely been
    down hill since then for humans and extinction is inevitable.

  94. 100 RightPaddock
    August 5, 2009 at 09:36

    Seems to me that only thing that’s changed is the media the message is the same, in my early teens we swapped black and white photo magazines and banned books.

    Far more worrying is that SMS, twitter, facebook etc are destroying out children’s (grandchildren in my case) ability to communicate in anything more than slogans and verbless drivel.

    Even their popular music seems devoid of anything worthwhile. Which 21st century popular songwriter draws inspiration from the likes of Shakespeare and Pound in the way that Bob Dylan did in the 20th century.

  95. August 5, 2009 at 09:38

    just like tackling terrorism world thinktank has to devise ways to curb this mobile misuse for sexual perversion by teenagers especially ..our state kerala has lost teenage girls lives by scores due to this misuse of mobiles on their naked body?

  96. 102 Scott
    August 5, 2009 at 10:14

    I must admit I find it pretty funny reading the newsbeat article and noticing one of the most read stories to the right of the page has the headline ’60ft penis painted on roof’

    The media loves sex too…

  97. 103 KC in Uk
    August 5, 2009 at 14:46

    The problem isn’t with mobile phones, it’s societry that is to blame for the pervasiveness of pornography. Since pornography is insitagated by adults, it’s adults that are to blame. The youth are the real victims.

  98. 104 Dennis Junior
    August 6, 2009 at 03:02

    Yes, Mobile (Cell) Phones in most cases are damaging “our” children’s sexual

    ~Dennis Junior~

  99. August 16, 2009 at 19:42

    Interesting articles , really like it keep posting more like this. thanks

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