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FYI (if you're a teenager's parent)

In response to this Desert News article, a couple of redditors pointed out the embarrassment "Given Breath" blogger Kim may have caused her sons with the letter she wrote and published, admonishing their female peers to stop posting sexually suggestive "selfies" on facebook. As one of them astutely put it, "this kid will never get laid in HS."  
 
I think Kim set her toe on the right track, but I think she really missed the train with what she wrote. That astute observation on reddit makes a point. The letter probably is embarrassing to the boys, and it could be socially damaging. However, that's not Kim's biggest lapse in judgement. .

Frankly, having been a high school girl who hung out with other high school girls when the legal environment was not as dangerous for boys as it is now, I'd say high school is a minefield of girl bombs for today's boys, because girls don't understand the consequences their decisions can have for their dates.

Not that embarrassing your kid is a great way to go about it, but probably the best thing that can happen to a kid who wants to date girls is for his parents to make sure that he's an adult before he gets laid, and that he's informed enough to be very, very picky about who he trusts enough to make himself as vulnerable as he'll be when he does become sexually active.

For a guy, heterosexual dating without judgement is like juggling hand grenades.

There is good and bad in Kim's letter - she got that girls are responsible for telling people who they are, and that appearance is part of that for a girl just as much as it is for a guy, and she's right to let girls know that they'll be vetted for character before they're allowed to associate with her sons.

Dads have been doing that with regard to their daughters' potential dates for generations.

Maybe she shouldn't have embarrassed her son with a public lecture like that. Maybe it isn't as embarrassing or limiting as it looks. Regardless, one problem I see with it is that she's not writing to all of the right people.
Sure, girls need to realize some things - but so do their parents.

So do the parents of other boys.

And so do the boys themselves - a concept that everyone seems to neglect to grasp.

Sexual selfies of both sexes - and I'm not talking about pictures that are just meant to be attractive, but genuinely sexually suggestive, overly revealing images - communicate some things people don't realize they communicate.

"I am aware that I'm a sexual being, and I'm enjoying toying with aspects of that." 

That's a very adult, very assertive and possibly aggressive statement for a photo to make. What's important about it is that in posting a "look at how sexy I am" photo in a public forum like that, the poster has made everyone the target. Not just friends, not just family, not just "safe" people - everyone. Classmates he or she doesn't hang out with or even trust. Flash game friends. Anyone who, for whatever reason, might ever look at his or her social network profile.

What does that say to the viewer?

"I'm exploring my sexuality at an age during which I'm likely to underestimate the potential consequences. I'm likely to be unintentionally or even intentionally careless in how I go about that." 

Such carelessness on a social networking site may lead the viewer to suspect that the poster might be that careless in general.

Even worse, the fact that these images make it onto such a teen's public social networking profile unchecked says something particularly dangerous:

"My parents aren't keeping good enough track of me. I'm not receiving enough guidance or supervision to keep me from putting this where everyone can see it, even though I am underage."

Of course that should be a red flag for other kids' parents. 

As a parent, you don't want your kid strongly influenced by kids who are both loosely supervised, and exercise poor judgement. Failing to monitor that situation is like letting your kid play with a viper. It doesn't matter whether the viper is malicious or not. If your kid gets poisoned under that circumstance, it's still your fault as a parent for not doing a better job watching out for him.

Something else that a teen isn't mature enough to realize, but an adult should be is that where and how the image is posted carries a message.

An adult posting a sexy shot on an adult site is celebrating his or her sexuality in a forum dedicated for that - an adult sharing with other adults in a setting where what's being communicated is intended and understood. That's fine, and should be accepted for what it is. An adult has the capability of understanding and choosing to accept the potential consequences (there's no genuine privacy on the internet) of his or her choices.

A public profile photo on a social networking site tells anyone who views your profile "This is part of how I define myself." How prominently displayed on your profile the image is tells how much of yourself you define in that way. When the image is of an overtly sexual display, it doesn't matter whether it's right or wrong to make judgements about the person based on the image, and it doesn't matter whether people have a right to their own sexual development or sexual nature. It's not an appropriate message for parents to allow their kids to send.

This is not to disparage having or sharing sexy photos in general. I would be the epitome of hypocrisy if I did that - but it is an adult decision, one which should be made by adults ready to handle it, not made by high school kids and sure as shit not targeting (whether intended or not) classmates at one of the most emotionally and sexually vulnerable times in their lives.

Parents should be aware of that vulnerability regardless of the gender of their kids. We've gotten all kinds of messages about girls' vulnerability - very little has been said about how vulnerable boys are. Everything that is true about the vulnerability of high school girls is just as true about boys... but boys also face legal vulnerability to which girls are not subject.

Parents with sons should monitor what their sons are exposed to. Parents with daughters should teach their daughters to be mindful of their male peers' vulnerability, just as they expect those kids' parents to teach their sons to be mindful of their female peers' vulnerability. We also have to teach our sons to be as mindful of their own vulnerability as we teach our daughters to be of theirs - and to vet potential partners based on character. Understanding the implications of public profile images - their own, and others' - is one aspect of that. That kind of parental protectiveness isn't something that should be reserved just for girls.

Just because a kid is male doesn't mean he isn't still a kid. Boys deserve the same parental consideration and concern that has always been dedicated to girls.

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