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A curriculum that honestly appraised the risks of sexting would draw fire from parents and politicians who think adolescents should simply abstain from sexting (and, for that matter, from sex).Surveys have repeatedly shown that most parents favor sex education in our schools, but they also differ sharply about what the subject should contain.For the past century, we’ve been worrying that new forms of media are fostering sexual immorality in the young.And we’ve called upon our schools to stem the evil tide.Back then, of course, what happened in the back seat stayed there and wasn’t splayed across the Internet.What hasn’t changed is our reliance on schools, which have been called upon once again to clean up a perceived sexual crisis.Nor do all sexting teenagers experience trauma or bullying, as popular reports suggest.
But beyond that, nobody has ever shown that the sexting induces kids to engage in riskier behavior.
And they’re catching on quickly among teenagers, especially among those whom researchers believe are at the greatest risk.
In Washington, a study of a statewide text-messaging program that connects kids to trained health educators found that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to use the service than other kids were.
So the safest course for school officials is to focus on so-called plumbing lessons and to avoid anything controversial.
And even frank sex education in schools might not make much difference in the lives of our teenagers, who have always drawn their sexual knowledge more from the hated mass media than from their teachers.
“A 12-minute filmstrip is hardly a match for two years of ‘R’-rated films every weekend,” the director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals admitted in 1981, adding that “schools are a puny David without even a slingshot against the media Goliath.”So how should we address the issue of sexting? The most promising sex education initiatives right now are text-messaging services, which allow teenagers to submit questions anonymously and receive informed answers.