Teen Suicide Brings Wrong Call for Regulation

By: Warner Todd Huston

No one wants to see a beautiful 18-year-old girl commit suicide. No one wants to make any worse the pain that surviving family members feel. No one wants to make light of the situation that causes a child or young person to chose suicide, either. But high emotion makes for bad laws and this is no exception.

Last year, Jessica Logan imagined that she was sending a nude cell-phone photo of herself only to her new boyfriend. But he was not as circumspect as she might have hoped passing the salacious picture to his friends, and they to theirs, until it surged through some seven Cincinnati high schools.

It wasn’t long before Jessica was the butt of jokes and the target of epithets like “slut” and “porn queen.” The ribbing shook her so hard that she hanged herself in her bedroom last July.

And now, parents Albert and Cynthia Logan want new laws passed to somehow stop “sexting” of nude or half nude photos from one teen’s cell-phone to another. Unfortunately, such laws are just a bad idea. They will do nothing to stop the low-born practice while only piling more strangling regulations on the business community as well as giving government and police officials even more intrusive powers into our individual lives.

There is nothing wrong with trying to convince kids that emailing nude photos of themselves is not a good idea, of course, and the Logan’s are undertaking that effort. But the there-ought-to-be-a-law mentality is not effective here, as it isn’t in most cases on such emotional issues.

Absurdly, the Logans are agitating to place more onus on schools for stopping this new age problem of “cyberbullying” and “sexting.”

“Schools need to understand our kids are targeting each other and how technology is being used as a weapon,” Aftab said. “None of them (the schools) know what to do. Many of them … think it’s not their problem. They want to close their eyes and put fingers in their ears, saying it’s a home issue.”

Sorry, parents, but if your children are sending nude cell-phone photos of themselves to each other, the solution is not to force schools to get involved. The solution is to take away the darn cell-phone!

Sadly, what we have here is not a lack of laws, but a crass culture.

A national study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy revealed that 1 in 5 teen girls or 22 percent say they have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude images online of themselves.

Salacious attitudes are instilled in kids by raunchy entertainment, coarse advertising and the non-chalant attitude of parents to these influences. It needs to be pointed out that this sad suicide was precipitated in the first place by the girl sending the nude photo to a boyfriend she only had been dating for two months. Sadly, this young girl was not instilled with an attitude of propriety in her behavior. Just as sadly, she is not alone. Too many of our children never seem to be told what behavior is unacceptable in our country today.

There is a reason, though, that this poor child was so hard hit by the taunting she was confronted with. We lack a sense of shame in our culture and when it hits it is like a ton of bricks that many don’t quite understand. Young Jessica suddenly found herself with a bad reputation, deserved or no, because of her own actions.

“I watched her get kicked out of maybe three or four parties over the summer just for having ‘a reputation,’ ” said Steven Arnett, a friend of hers who graduated last year from Moeller High School.

This is a sad, sad object lesson for other kids imagining there are no consequences for sending salacious photos of themselves all across the Internet. There ARE consequences to your actions. This must be learned by our youth but it is a lesson that is missing from society today.

Unfortunately, just the wrong sort of lesson is being promulgated by teachers, lawmakers and these parents with this incident.

“It is a form of bullying, and that is something we cannot tolerate. The difficulty is stopping it. … That’s why we stress with our kids that the moment you push ‘send,’ the damage is done.” (said Sycamore Superintendent Adrienne James)

All the onus put on “the bullying” and none put on the person that sent the nude photo to begin with is simply not a complete lesson. The better lesson is to focus equally on both the sender and the bullies, not just the bullies.

The wrap up is typical of the wrong headed emphasis we too often place on the situations that confront us in our modern society.

Albert and Cynthia Logan have gone public with Jessie’s story, hoping to change vague state laws that don’t hold anyone accountable for sexting. They also want to warn kids about what can happen when nude cell-phone photos are shared.

“We want a bill passed,” Cynthia Logan said.

“It’s a national epidemic. Nobody is doing anything – no schools, no police officers, no adults, no attorneys, no one.”

It isn’t the laws that are the problem. Its the overindulgence of kid’s “self esteem,” a complete lack of moral instruction, a coarsening of our society, and a corresponding assumption by too many parents that everyone else should be responsible for their own children’s behavior.

Again, it is horrendous that this beautiful young woman took her own life over this embarrassment. But it is the lack of imagining that actions have consequences, that embarrassment is a result, that reputations can be destroyed with casual actions little thought out, that all too often is a lesson learned too late.

It isn’t only the Logan’s fault. There is little doubt that they loved their daughter. But this incident is indicative of some major errors in our society that needs to be fixed. If it isn’t, these heart-wrenching incidents will grow until the total breakdown of society is complete and no “law” will stop it.

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