In recent months, we’ve witnessed how a new form of communication — “sexting” — can lead to a lot of trouble.
Just ask Tiger Woods, whose sexually charged cell phone chat with a mistress led to a sketchy police report, handfuls of dropped endorsements and months of tabloid turmoil.
A trend that’s spreading faster than a SoCal wildfire, the practice of sending sexually provocative text messages and naked pictures via cell phones has now become a digital epidemic. Seemingly unaware of the consequences, sexters just can’t get enough.
But while the plight of a superstar like Woods has been well documented, what’s more alarming is that college students and their younger teenage peers are part of a growing population of new-wave sexual communicators.
Although the sexting scare urges us to lock up our younger siblings and hold them tight, perhaps it’s us that we should be a little more concerned about.
On campus, digital interaction is an ubiquitous part of the college student’s day-to-day activities. Combine the propensity for phone usage with everyone’s favorite topic, and you have both a volatile and easy to use combination in the ever-so-popular act of sexting.
The loose social environment in college and prevalence of alcohol consumption make us more vulnerable as a group to sending the raunchy snapshots — clearly not the best example of our judgment. What started off as the classic “drunk dial” has now escalated to the “sext,” allowing potential sexual partners to harbor risqué messages that can be saved and shared with others.
Last week, MTV aired a special on the craze, “Sexting in America: When Privates go Public,” which discussed sexting’s pervasiveness in pop culture and recent popularity with everyday mobile users, especially younger ones. The TV special airs as a part of the network’s A Thin Line campaign.
Though it might seem a little outlandish for MTV to be assuming the role of the phone police, the music channel’s step to take action is actually much needed.
In a recent study by the Associated Press and MTV, approximately 30 percent of young people have either sent or received nude sext messages, while more than 60 percent of these individuals said they have been pressured more than once to participate in the promiscuous phone play.
Researchers found that barely half were concerned about the dangers of sexting, and only 25 percent acknowledged the potential legal issues surrounding sexting.
Celebrities Asher Roth and Michelle Trachtenberg and band Boys Like Girls have joined MTV’s fight against cyberbullying, online harassment and sexting. Also hoping to spread awareness are the examples set by a pair of famous flashers, Pete Wentz and Rihanna, who both felt the backlash firsthand when their nude bits were spilled across the internet after similar unfortunate cell phone episodes.
Maybe pop culture is to blame for the liberal sexual expression of teenagers today.
A generation influenced by all things Gossip Girl, the youth population seems to think it’s the social norm to send crude photos and sinful one-liners as their way of privately flirting in the digital age — only to soon find themselves publicly humiliated.
Perhaps the legal system is the only way to scare sextual deviants.
Up until now, the legal element has been a relatively unexplored scene in all the digital drama. Although some see it as harmless fun, more and more young people are on the end of nasty legal battles — including charges and allegations of distributing, possessing or producing child pornography.
While digital abuse is not a completely new concept, sexting is making it more common. The scare of online predators and creepy chat room lurkers has made the Internet less safe for youth over the years.
Now with another platform easily adept for bawdy behavior, the frenzy of concerned parents escalates.
So be forewarned — poor judgment, a night’s lack of discretion and an ill-sent sext message could have far more severe consequences on USC’s tight-knit community than your LCD screen could have ever imagined.
Fight the urge. Think of Vanessa Hudgens, and whatever you do don’t press send.
Christopher Agutos is a junior majoring in public relations and political science. His column “Pop Life” runs Tuesdays.