Now You See It...

June 22nd, 2012

A few weeks ago, a middle school band director in Colleyville, Texas, was named teacher of the year at his school. A few days later he was arrested and admitted to exchanging naked pictures via mobile phone with a 15-year-old former student. He faces felony charges. This case is especially disturbing because it involves a teacher and a minor; but it seems like news stories about teenagers sending explicit pictures of themselves have become more commonplace. Often they are stories about girls who send revealing photos of themselves to their boyfriends, only to have the pictures distributed to all their classmates’ phones once they have broken up.

But just how common is this? Recent research by the University of New Hampshire says it’s actually not very common at all. According to the study, among 10 to 17-year-olds, only 1 percent have ever sent explicitly nude pictures of themselves. Only about that same number have ever sent sexually suggestive, but less graphic, images. It would seem as though most teens understand the dangers and negative consequences of sending one of those photos.

While “sexting” isn’t as common as media coverage of the practice would suggest, technology makes it very easy for people to exchange racy pictures. Stories about sexting have drawn attention to the risks associated with sending revealing photos, but a new mobile phone application called Snapchat eliminates some of those risks. With the app, a user can assign an expiration time of 10 seconds or less on any photo he or she sends. Pictures sent by Snapchat disappear without a trace, and if the recipient of a picture tries to take a picture of the screen, the app sends a notice to the sender.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Regardless of the privacy and security precautions taken, once we release content into the digital world, it often becomes impossible to erase or take back. Even if we delete something we have posted, if another person has saved it to his or her computer or phone, he or she is free to send or post it just about anywhere.

Wanting to erase or undo something we’ve done or said isn’t limited to the digital world. We all have sinned and done things we regret. Though the technology doesn’t exist for us to go back in time to change these things, forgiveness is available to us through Christ. We don’t have to carry around the burden of our sins forever.

While Snapchat’s auto-expire feature clears pictures after a matter of seconds, we shouldn’t use this feature as an excuse to send pictures we wouldn’t otherwise send. And by the same token, the forgiveness we have through Christ doesn’t give us an excuse to behave in ways we know to be wrong.

What Goes Around Comes Around

In John 3:19-20 Jesus says: “The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil. All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light.” When we are about to send a friend any sort of digital communication, we should ask ourselves what would happen if it went beyond just our friend. Whose feelings would be hurt? Whose dignity would be sacrificed? Whose reputation would be trashed? Then, we should also consider that if it would hurt the heart of God, who sees all, perhaps we should not be sending it to even one person.

With every post, every text, every tweet, we build a reputation for ourselves. How can we show the world that we love our Creator and honor God’s gift of sexuality?

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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