Relationships

December 25, 2021

Do you know to whose phones your teenage daughter is sending her nude pictures?

A group of African-American teenage girls posing, with attitude. Five girls are sitting on a bench while one girl, the tallest of the group is sitting across their laps. Her challenging attitude as well as her sweatshirt says “Do I look like I care?”

By Bunmi Sofola

After the widely published experience of Cynthia at the hands of her Facebook predators about two years ago which eventually led to her gruesome death in a hotel room thousands of miles from her residence, a lot of shocking facts have emerged about the atrocities people commit online.

In a devastating book released about a year ago, Choe Combi highlighted cases of teenagers who she interviewed for her book, who are caught in the webs of internet usage gone wild.

Rachel, she reported, “is a bright, pretty 17-year-old who wants to study medicine. She has lots of friends and when they can slip or charm their way past the watchful bouncers of bars, they like to drink cocktails and enjoy being nearly grown-up.

“She gets on with her parents and younger brother and her teachers praise her. Once a week, usually Sunday night, she performs solo sex acts on camera for a man she has never met called David.

“After talking to her online for about three months, David persuaded Rachel to start what she calls ‘the sex stuff’.

“He now has enough ‘sex stuff’ of Rachel on tape that she feels she can neither break contact with him nor stop doing what he asked of her.

“Michael has just turned 16. He has been watching hardcore pornography since he was 12 on either the laptop or iPhone that his parents bought for him. He has, by his own admission, seen ‘every sex act known to man’ in his pornography–viewing career, though he is yet to have sex.

“He doesn’t see much wrong with watching porn but he does admit to being unable to stop, despite ‘sometimes trying to’.”

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A few months back, I was appalled when the graphic picture of an adult who should know better popped up on my WhatsApp.

The foolish woman, naked and spread-eagled was supposed to have posed for a lover who forget to delete the evidence.

His snoopy wife got hold of his phone and off-loaded the picture on facebook for all to see. Heavens know what could have happened to her as a few months later, the same picture was posted, with a different caption alleging she’d since committed suicide. That sounded like an embellished truth to me.

However, these examples are just a few of the shocking experiences a lot of teenagers encounter whilst ‘surfing the net.’

It is perhaps difficult for adult to understand what the internet means to today’s teenagers and, therefore they find it hard to comprehend how any of the examples are really happening.

“For most of us,” wrote Combi, “the internet is a convenient form of communication, a mode of entertainment, which generally makes our lives easier. For teenagers, it is a window into the world, an identify, a friend, a parent, a guide, a bounty of information, an endless supply of entertainment, a friendship maker or breaker, a source of heartache and a million other things.

It is something they obey and seriously believe they cannot do without.

This is the first generation that grew up from birth under the internet’s watchful eye. It informs and shapes their identify and is the most influential aspect of modern teenage life.

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Certainly, teenagers are more introspective than ever. Being plugged in online 24/7 means that they don’t even have to leave their bedrooms to communicate, socialise or meet new people.

“Friendships and relationships are no longer forged in playgrounds on each other’s houses but on social media; on facebook pages and other sites where being ‘liked’ in the virtual world counts for more than someone saying ‘I like you’ in person.

Bullying is no longer a shove in the corridor or a freezing out of a friendship group but expressed in multiple texts or online messages where the victim might have no clue of the sender’s identity.

Teenage girls and boys no longer seek sex education from textbooks with anatomical diagrams, giggling friends or flustered parents, they can get it from films with titles like Teen Ass 2, which they can access on the smartphones that they carry with them at all times.

New figures have also revealed that sexualised images of women on social media have led to an increase in emotional problems among young girls.

Teenagers rarely measure self-esteem or self-worth against personal and scholastic achievements, however brilliant they are, but increasingly by how many people tell them they are ‘hot’ on the photo-sharing website Instagram or other forms of social media. “Everyone wants to be an Instagram queen,” said Combi – and adults don’t get it. You can be ‘Instagram famous’ without being famous at all in the real world. To be Instagram famous, you have to be amazing-looking and have the clothes and the body and do amazing things.

“In a way, the most worrying fact in all this is that neither the internet nor social media is going away.

“As the 21st century develops, all of us, but particularly the young, are going to become more entrenched in our carefully constructed online worlds and identities. It is increasingly important that parents and guardians insist on their teenagers living, communicating, forming opinions and experiencing things in the real world.

“It is crucial for all young people to know that nearly everything online is constructed or fake.

“Sex in the real world is different. Violence in the real world is different. People in the real world are different.

“And as alluring, fun and glamorous as the internet can be, reality, with all its imperfections, is so much better.”

Vanguard News Nigeria