Professor: 'Sexting' is Just 'Spin the Bottle' for the 21st Century

TextingDr. Peter Cumming, an Associate Professor at York University, believes that ‘sexting’ – or sending sexually explicit messages or images online or via mobile phones – is no worse for kids than playing doctor or spin-the-bottle. In a talk at Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Carleton University in Ottawa, Dr. Cumming argued that labeling children and teens as sex offenders for sending sexually explicit information is an overreaction, according to Canadian Newswire.

Dr. Cumming noted that sexting has made headlines in recent months; we reported on a survey a few months ago indicating that about 20% of youth have sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves online, and several American high school students were facing child pornography charges after sending pictures of themselves over their cell phones. Despite the fact that such images sent on the internet have a permanence of which many youth are unaware, Dr. Cumming said that sexting is safer than the more traditional ‘sexual’ games of children and youth because there is no risk for physical contact. He had this to say in an interview on Canadian Newswire:

“I think a distinction has to be made between nudity and child porn,” he adds. “And it’s an ethical question to ask whether children can create child pornography. Left to their own devices, aren’t children likely to make some bad decisions – particularly since online material can often escape the control of its creator? Sure.”


These statements might be controversial, but Dr. Cumming didn’t stop there, suggesting that cell phones and the internet are thought of as ‘the Big Bad Wolf” by parents, whose own parents or grandparents might have reacted the same way to Elvis’ dance moves 50 years ago. Regardless of whether you believe children can create child pornography, the safety issues surrounding posting explicit images on the internet remain. Education.com has some ideas for parents:

  1. Keep the lines of communication open. Rather than asking about ‘sexting,’ it can be helpful for parents to talk to their kids about their friends and their relationships.
  2. Talk to your kids about the risks of sharing sexual pictures or information. The potential for such material to be shared beyond the intended recipient is only one of the potential dangers. The permanence of the information, along with the potential legal consequences of distributing sexually explicit materials are also important to consider.
  3. Encourage your child to think about the feelings of others if you’re concerned that they’re forwarding or sharing pictures of their classmates.

Is sexting mostly harmless or are lawmakers right to classify it as child pornography? Leave us a comment!

You can read about Dr. Cumming’s lecture here.

Subscribe to The Family Anatomy Podcast by clicking here, or get your free subscription directly through iTunes.

Note: Posts on Family Anatomy are for information only. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.