Sexting: The Electronic Hickey

After reading Jan Hoffman’s, A Girl’s Nude Photo, and Altered Lives in the New York Times this weekend, I am determined to make sure that my graduate students are aware that this is something we need to address in school.  It supports why we need to teach digital citizenship.  Teens need to have the opportunity to talk this out and understand the consequences of their actions in today’s digital world.

This topic upsets me greatly.  How do teens think this is a good idea?  Why would anyone take a compromising picture of themselves and send it digitally to anyone? And why would the receiver make the decision to continue to pass it on? It baffles me.  Am I old fashion?  I don’t think so.  In my day, which I don’t really think was that long ago, hickeys were given on the neck to show the world that you were in a relationship.  I guess its a part of adolescence, a rite of passage or something.  But, how do we help our students understand that an “electronic hickey” is not something you want to give or receive or forward?

It appears that we need to go back to the basics and have an open and honest conversation about respect – respect for yourself and respect for others.  Our students deserve and need it.  They need to take the lead in this conversation. What words, pictures and video are you taking and sending?  What kind of digital trail are you leaving behind?  Are you proud of it today?  Will you be proud of it tomorrow?  Would you like your parents to see this?  Teachers?   Neighbors? Grandparents?  How would someone feel it they received this picture or video of their child, sibling, grandchild, relative, etc.?  If you hesitate, the answer means don’t take it, don’t send it and don’t pass it on.

PS: Props to one of my graduate students @nhowley for being such a great (and patient) teacher!  This is my first WordPress post with a picture!




  • This article was so incredibly scary. It is amazing how magnified one bad choice can become and how it can destroy a life so quickly. I liked the reason the prosecutor gave for not prosecuting the girl who sent the message in the first place- what lesson could he teach her that she hadn’t already learned a million times over?
    I love what you say about the digital trail… they just have such a hard time seeing repercussions of their actions- they can’t look beyond the here and now (I do actually remember that feeling…. albeit faintly).
    That story really gave me chills… but it was important to read. Thanks for sharing!

  • I think the BIG issue is the passing on part. I support the idea of the original texts, photos etc as a way of sharing intimacy, but people need to learn that passing that on to someone else is like inviting them into your bedroom to watch you have sex.

  • This is a huge issue all around- the taking of the picture, sending of the picture, and passing on of the picture. Unfortunately, it’s not just in the case of digital footprints; overall, too many people are of the mindset that their actions have no consequences. In the case of digital footprints, those actions can be discovered in seconds (when a photo or video goes viral) and people EVERYWHERE have access to it. It’s tough because many times people don’t learn until they’ve had a negative experience to shape them (like those involved in the NY Times article).

    You made a point which really stuck with me- it comes back to respect. Respect for yourself and respect for your body. I truly believe every action and reaction boils down to respect or a lack thereof. We need to help kids first and foremost respect themselves and their bodies- without that respect, there is room for compromise which leads to incidents like this one. Instead of preaching and lecturing about why NOT to do something like sexting, we should instead use this topic as a vehicle to talk about respecting ourselves and our bodies. Every girl wants to feel special- unfortunately, Margarite felt she was special by sending a naked picture to Isaiah. If only someone had helped her understand that she had more dignity and self-worth than a naked picture! Perhaps this incident would’ve been avoided….

    … And that brings me to the essence of why I teach. To help others realize their worth, their potential, their dignity.

  • Unfortunately, this topic is not a new one. Pictures like this have been sent around most middle and high schools across the country. Does that make the behavior acceptable? Not at all, but it clearly is an issue we need to address with our children/students. I do think that we need to go back to the basics about respect – respect for yourself and respect for others. If we have respect for ourselves and others, pictures wouldn’t be taken or sent around for others to pick apart.

    We also need to talk to children/students about their digital footprint, although I do think that this topic is harder to deal with. Students/children don’t really understand that what they write on the internet is there FOREVER! I will admit that I did not know people could later find pictures of websites that had been deleted. If adults are not aware of this, I highly doubt students will know this. We definitely need to include students in our conversations so that they feel some ownership for the solutions we are trying to come up with.

  • Makia Easterling

    Sexting is a trend being practiced among an array of children, teens, and adults. What is not being acknowledged, is the message sexting is sending to the millions of viewers its capable of reaching on the web. Being taught self respect and morals can diminsh the use of sexting. Educating teens and adults on the consequences that can stem from sexting may also shed some light to those practicing sexting.

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