Opinion

Sexting advice: Keep your private parts private | Amy Johnson

Back to school is just around the corner, and many young people will be heading back with new smartphones, so let’s review some safety tips for your tweens and teens.

We only have to look as far as former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner to know what not to do.

Mr. Weiner resigned in 2011 after a scandal where he “accidentally” sent pictures of his private parts electronically to women who were not his wife. This is known as “sexting.”

To be perfectly clear, it would still be sexting even if he sent them to his wife. Now, in the midst of a mayoral candidacy in New York City, Anthony Weiner (I know, such an unfortunate name for someone with this problem) is back in the news because some pictures surfaced again — even after he apologized and was really, really sorry and was going to spend more time with his family.

Here are my top five tips for you, in case you were thinking you could do a better job with this than Mr. Weiner.

1. Don’t think twice — think about 200,000 times — before clicking and pressing send. Think things like: “Could there be any circumstance ever, in the next, say, 50 years, when I might regret sending this picture to this person?” And “Is there any chance this person might ever find a reason to use this picture in such a way that would unflattering to me?” And “What is the worst case scenario involving this picture?” And “Is there some other way I can convey what I’m hoping to convey besides sending a picture of my genitals electronically, which automatically means the picture is out in the electronic-sphere forever?”

2. If you are under 18, sending any kind of pictures of your genitals or breasts is considered child pornography. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Not even this one time.

3. These are also good things to think if you are over 18.

4. If you’re in a relationship, remember that if your boyfriend or girlfriend is pressuring you to send him or her some pictures, you need a new boyfriend or girlfriend — or at least some new boundaries about what you will and won’t do in a relationship.

5. If you’ve been drinking, give your keys and your phone to a sober friend to keep for you until you can think like a sober person, or at least with the maximum amount of brain cells available.

If you want to let someone know you “like them that way,” try telling them straight up, or send a note, or a card, but not a picture of your privates. Find out if the person returns your affections by asking, not by sexting. If they do reciprocate your feelings, talk in person or on the phone, not by texting. Find out what is OK and not OK with this person in terms of showing affection. Private parts are private for a reason, and are best shared — you guessed it — privately.

Just because we have the technology doesn’t mean we should use it. Take a breath. Think carefully. Then take your finger off the send button and talk to your intended, privately, instead.

 

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