Sexting Selfies

The youth of today, some people declare, are narcissistic and obsessed with appearance and popularity.

The evidence for this is pretty clear. In her article in The Courier-Mail of 10 June 2013, “World of Y is made in their image” Karen Brooks declares today’s teens are “screenagers”, jockeying for fame and recognition from a bunch of “friends” on Facebook. They effectively turn themselves into a brand, she writes, updating that brand and marketing themselves constantly. Appearance, it seems, is all that matters, and getting your appearance out there is equally important.

There is, methinks, much reason in her sayings. She goes on to declare that the people responsible for this are the parents. And she is right, there, too. Coddling children, protecting them from harm and the need to make decisions, and, moreover, providing them with the technology to communicate 24/7, has a big part to play in all this.

I was discussing things with a teenager recently about the propensity for her generation to exhibit the minutiae of their lives online. One example we discussed was the habit some people have of taking a picture of what they are currently eating and posting it as a picture on Facebook. Do I really want to see that? Really? So you enjoyed the meal. Great. But you took a picture of it before you ate it, so how did you know it was going to be so fantastic that everyone needed to see what it was? Oh, I see, you just thought we might be interested. Sorry, no.


Even my Facebook page, which has an appropriate proportion of adults as friends, is subject to this kind of post.

And selfies. Let me talk about selfies. You know what they are, those pictures taken with a phone camera, usually looking in a mirror or held at arm’s length so a number of friends can cram their heads together, mouths open and say “Look at us! We’re important!” Then the subject of the pic posts it on their social network.

No harm in that, really. Not unless they are in their underwear or doing something inappropriate. But I just don’t really want to see it. I don’t care you are, I don’t care what you’re wearing. Well, not always. Depends on who is in the underwear. I must confess I did take a selfie once, and sent it to someone, but it was just for them and not for posting for the whole world to see. I trusted the person I sent it to not to send it on, and they haven’t so far. Besides, you couldn’t see my face. Well and good.

So, you ask, if I am guilty of posting a selfie, why should I criticise those who do?

Well, for a start, as I said, it was only for private consumption, not general viewing. I got one back from them, and it remains private in my files. For another thing, it’s probably not something teenagers should be doing. A girl posts a picture of herself in a rude pose or wearing (or not) something alluring, and sends it to her current squeeze. The boyfriend may get a thrill out of it, but boys will be boys, and he can post that on to whoever he likes. And probably does.

So the obsessed Me Generation (or the “Millenials” as Joel Stern calls them), are a product of our desire to invent machines that can keep us in constant, if unnecessary, communication with everyone all the time, and our desire to coddle and protect the young. Not much we can do about it, I expect.

Except that we can, of course, try to cut down on texting, and sexting, and twittering, and social media-ing. I was waiting for a bus the other night in the city at peak hour. Of the forty-odd people (or forty odd people, including me) only three, including myself, were not using their phones or iPads for various purposes. I guess they felt the need to text someone urgently, or check their emails, or watch the news or the sports, or see what someone had for lunch, or see if anyone liked what they had for lunch. Nothing, I maintain, that couldn’t wait until they got home.
It wasn’t just the screenagers doing this. There were adults, too.

It’s a bit much, really.
So don’t send me a selfie. Not unless you have a good body. Then, please.

The Other Kids – You Know, the Good Ones

A few posts of mine recently have been about kids going wrong. “It’s not what kids do” is one of those, where I point out how some kids these days just don’t seem to get it. They are also, apparently, being treated leniently by the courts. (See my post “Crime and Punishment”).

So today I thought I’d blog about the other kids.You know, the good ones, just to show I have no hard feelings and that I do acknowledge there are good young people out there doing extraordinary things. I may be a grumpy old man, but I do try to see both sides of the coin.

So, here are some amazing people under 18:

1) Malala Yousafzai. 

Malala Yousafzai

This is the Pakistani girl shot on the head by the Taliban for daring to suggest that girls should be educated. Apparently she has been advocating for equality since she was 11 and has already won  won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. She was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest nominee in history. What happened to her was horrific, but she has achieved an enormous amount in her short time so far.

2) Daisy Morris. Daisy, an English girl, discovered a dinosaur when she was 5 years old. How cool is that?


What kid would not want to discover a new species of dinosaur? I’d like to discover one even now. The creature is now named after her. Vectidraco daisymorrisae. It means “Daisy Morris’s Isle of Wight Dragon”. It even has a cool name. She stumbled over some blackened fossilised bones on the beach when walking with her family. She’s always been interested in dinosaurs, apparently. Well, all that dedication has paid off.

3) Zack Kopplin.


Ok, he’s 19 now. But he started when he was 14 as an advocate for education law reform in the USA. He is against the teaching of creationism in Louisiana science classes. Apparently, some teachers wanted to kick evidenced-based science out of the classroom altogether. No more evolution, just what the Bible tells us is so. Zack has been successful in thwarting these attempts. He is also an advocate for “good science”. And, of course, for the teaching of science in general. Oh, and he’s actually studying history.

These three “kids” have done some extraordinary things. I seem to have been biased towards the science/education side of things, but those are my interests.

It’s encouraging to see young people achieving amazing things. Sometimes, like Malala Yousafzai, they almost lose their lives doing it. But it doesn’t stop them.

So, if my previous posts about teenagers have been a bit negative, I hope these three wonderful people make up for it. There are a lot more out there. Let’s encourage them.

Crime and Punishment

There is ongoing controversy about the punishments handed out by Courts, especially to juvenile offenders. The Courier-Mail had something to say about this today:

But it’s not just offenders under 18. People are complaining that many offenders seem to be getting off lightly. The judges seem to be reluctant to hand out prison sentences, or anything at all like a “real” punishment.

There is some sense in their reluctance. Keeping someone in prison costs money, and the emphasis on punishment these days (at least here in Queensland) is rehabilitation rather than retribution. Both of those reasons make sense. Of course, really serious offenders may be exceptions to the rehabilitation rule, but surely teenagers just being immature and making mistakes should not have the full weight of the law thrown at them? Especially given that most of us could probably remember stupid things we did at that age and didn’t get caught for.

But it’s a complex problem. At what point does a bit of teenage stupidity become punishable by something more than a slap on the wrist? There are millions of possible scenarios and millions of people to make judgments and that means that no punishment will ever be able to satisfy everyone.

We can all feel distress when some kid walks out of Court figuratively (or even literally) thumbing his nose at the law, smiling because he avoided any real punishment, and not deterred in the slightest from breaking the law again. That’s understandable. But the judges have an enormous – some would say impossible – and certainly onerous task before them.

You can’t satisfy everyone. Does punishing one person deter others from doing the same thing? Does the punished person learn from their mistake? Does setting up someone as an example to others work?

Yes and no. Sometimes. Not in all cases.

And that’s the problem. I don’t know what the answer is; I don’t even know if there is one.

I used to be a lawyer. I saw a lot of punishments handed out to my clients and to other people. And I know that each time the Judge or Magistrate thought long and hard about what to do. They are bound, too, by the rules laid down by the government. If anyone should be targeted for being too lenient, it should include those making the laws, not just those enforcing them.

As a lawyer, too, I saw the effect punishments had on my clients. Some were genuinely affected by it. Others not so. That’s only to be expected. No one solution works for everyone.

Social reform may be the answer. Maybe we should be tackling the reasons crime occurs as well as handing out punishments when it does.

I remember when I was a full-time teacher seeing a sign on a Deputy-Principal’s wall: “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the same results.”

Something needs doing. But just what exactly is a hell of a big question.