Ever wondered what your teenage or young adult child, niece or nephew is always up to on their or borrowed mobile phone this holiday? Probably playing online games? Googling photographs of their favourite celebrity? Researching their homework from school or college? Or chatting with friends on WhatsApp and Facebook?
Well, that is very likely. However, have you ever paused to imagine the vices and bad things your child could be engaging in by guaranteeing them unfettered mobile phone use? For instance, sex chatting?
Sexting, a verb derived from sex and texting, is the act of sending someone sexually explicit messages and photographs via a mobile phone. Now, if you didn’t know, this is the latest beast parents and guardians should be fighting. It’s a lust taboo that has gripped a good number of youth, as parents remain in the dark.
A banker friend to this writer, ‘Daisy’ for now, because she did not wish to be named, says that she never had the slightest idea that her 16-year-old daughter could be sexting on her phone until she busted her last week.
“I never imagined my girl could be exchanging explicit images and texts with not one, but a couple of boys. She had this habit of being engrossed on her phone most of the time, with her ear piece in tow, and grinning from ear to ear all day long to an extent of forgoing meals and leaving house chores and her younger brother unattended,” she says.
The banker got a little troubled by this behaviour and decided to act. She waited until the teenage girl was deeply engaged in her phone and unaware of her immediate surrounding and swiftly snatched the phone from her.
“A week later, I am yet to believe what my girl was and has been up to since I bought her the phone in December 2017,” a disturbed Daisy confesses. Daisy found that her daughter was watching a pornographic video that a contact named ‘Black Sugar’ had sent her.
“The video was so explicit that I did not even watch it to the end. Other than this video, I found uncountable raunchy chats she had engaged in. More shocking to me is that some of the people my daughter has been engaging online in this ‘bad way’ are way older than her,” Daisy says.
She goes on to confess that this new revelation makes her feel like a bad mother, adding that she also found out that the girl has already engaged in sex.
Daisy has, therefore, decided to withdraw the mobile phone completely until her daughter completes secondary school education next year.
Meanwhile, she has also engaged the help of a counselling psychologist and her elder sister to speak to her daughter about her recent behaviour and activities.
A study conducted by two students at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, it was established that sexting and social media led to an increase in teenage pregnancy in Meru County.
The older ones in campus have not been left behind. Take the case of a certain outspoken Philip*. He doesn’t shy away from openly confessing that he is addicted to sexting and the trend is so common in campus and doesn’t understand the fuss.
“Most comrades always can’t wait to get to their hostels after class. They are always itching to be alone to sext,” says the student from a local university.
This latest fad of sexting has literally taken over some teens’ lives. “Even when you expect them to be out there playing or engaging in group activities with others, such guys would rather be alone in their bedrooms, sexting,” says Martin Mugambi, a city-based counselling psychologist.
Despite the dangers of this trend, Mugambi says most see no harm in it, and justify it by saying they are not engaging in the actual act and thus are hurting no one.