July 6, 2018 – A couple of years ago, I wrote a column in this space titled “The Horror Stories Are Real—Don’t Give Your Children A Smartphone.” I explained how smartphones are transforming the world teenagers live in, creating a virtual universe impervious to parents and guardians—a universe created and accessed by the smartphones that are now present in the hands of nearly every girl and boy, at a younger and younger age. I noted that Nancy Jo Sales had recently written a book called American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, which revealed that the teens themselves know social media is destroying their lives. Sales had been asked by the editor of Vanity Fair to begin researching the topic because he wanted to know why so many teen girls were killing themselves.
But for some reason, time and again, I find that many parents just don’t seem to get it. They can attend conferences where the brutal reality of sexting is laid out, replete with heartbreaking stories of nude selfies from girls sent to boys in a moment of bad judgement being passed around the school—resulting in humiliation, self-harm, and sometimes, horribly, suicide. They can hear that so many of these pictures are being passed around that Sales actually found that every high school she studied had a page where the boys could conglomerate the pictures they got or extorted from the girls onto what they call a “slut-page,” a personalized porn site featuring their female classmates. These pictures are often online, forever. Many of them constitute child pornography.
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