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to act appropriately in one’s best inter-

est.” By promoting parents merely as a
place to report abuse after the fact, MTV
is missing a huge opportunity to enrich
A PERFECT STORM
the public good.
“TEENS AND SEXTING,” a new report issued by the Pew Research Center’s
MTV should do three things. First, it
Internet and American Life Project, found that sexting occurs most often in
should do all it can to empower its audi-
three scenarios: (1) exchanges of images solely between two romantic partners;
ence to involve parents before abuse starts
(2) exchanges between partners that are then shared outside the relationship;
instead of after the fact. MTV could do
and (3) exchanges between people who are not yet in a relationship, but where
more to promote the virtues of healthy
one person hopes to be.
family life in its programming.
“Teens explained to us how secually suggestive images have become a form of
Second, it should cease the glorifi-
relationship currency,” said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist and author of
cation of careless sexuality and inter-
the report. “These images are shared as a part of or instead of sexual activity, or as
personal conflict by canceling shows
a way of starting or maintaining a relationship with a significant other. And they are
celebrating the thin line between “love
also passed along to friends for their entertainment value, as a joke or for fun.”
and abuse, and words and wounds.”
Teens also described the pressure they feel to share these types of images. One
Programs like Jersey Shore, The Real
high school girl wrote: “When I was about 14-15 years old, I received/sent these
World, The Hills, and My Super Sweet 16
types of pictures. Boys usually ask for them or start that type of conversation. My
glamorize greed, envy, strife, deceit,
boyfriend, or someone I really liked, asked for them. And I felt like if I didn’t do it,
malice, gossip, slander, and arrogance.
they wouldn’t continue to talk to me. At the time, it was no big deal. But now, look-
MTV’s left hand profits from “thin line”
ing back, it was definitely inappropriate and over the line.”
programming while the right hand now
The report also reveals that teens who are more intense users of cell phones are
condemns its own broadcasting ethos. more likely to receive sexually suggestive images. Teens with unlimited text messag-
Third, MTV needs subversive innova- ing plans—75 percent of cell-phone owning teens—are more likely to receive sexts
tion in order to broaden its partnerships. containing images of people they know. Among this group, 18 percent reported
MTV’s current partners include Facebook, receiving these images, compared with 8 percent of teens on limited plans and 3
MySpace, LoveIsRespect.org, and others, percent of teens who pay per message. Further, teens who keep their phones on
but cell-phone practices are moral issues almost all the time are more likely than others to receive text with suggestive imag-
requiring the insights of religious wisdom. es. For these teens, the phone has become such an important conduit for communi-
Interpersonal ethics is an area begging for cation and content of all kinds that turning it off is nearly unthinkable.
the time-tested expertise of our religious “The desire for risk-taking and sexual exploration during the teenage years, com-
communities, and to ignore those institu- bined with a constant connection via mobile devices, creates a ‘perfect storm’ for
tions is to ignore the core foundations of
sexting,” said Lenhart. “Teenagers have always grappled with issues around sex and
civil society.
relationships, but their coming-of-age mistakes and transgressions have never been
“A Thin Line” represents a new oppor-
so easily transmitted and archived for others to see.”
tunity for MTV to demonstrate radical
progressiveness. Instead, courageous moral
leadership is traded off for band-aid solu-
tions concerned only with consequences.
Progressive institutions address real issues
at their root causes. To be serious about
confronting abuse, MTV needs to look
in the mirror and cooperate with, rather
than undermine, the adults who are try-
ing to impart the message of human dig-
nity to the next generation.
Anthony B. Bradley, Ph.D, is visiting
professor of theology at the King’s College in
New York and a research fellow at the Acton
Institute. Article provided by EP News.
EVANGEL • MAR 2010 27
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