Sexting Is More Than Pix


Can you translate this dialog: kotl. iwsn. gypo. l8r. now. 2 c-p. 459. ruh. 143. im so fah, gypo. lmirl. no, gnoc. pir. ttfn. (Answer key at the bottom of the article.)

Don’t you speak Sext? About half of the 13-19-year-olds in America do. Add a still picture or video taken in the shower and you have all the ingredients you need to publish what used to be a very private moment.

The Chicago Tribune reported:

“In the last five years, the time that America’s 8- to 18-year-olds spend watching TV, playing video games and using a computer for entertainment has risen by 1 hour, 17 minutes a day, the Kaiser Family Foundation said. Young people now devote an average of 7 hours, 38 minutes to daily media use, or about 53 hours a week — more than a full-time job. “What surprised me the most is the sheer amount of media content coming into their lives each day,” said Kaiser’s Vicky Rideout, who directed the study. “When you step back and look at the big picture, it’s a little overwhelming.” The numbers zoom even higher if you consider kids’ multitasking — such as listening to music while on the computer. That data show young people are marinating in media for what amounts to 10 hours, 45 minutes a day — an increase of almost 2.25 hours since 2004.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation study attempts to quantify what we all know from our personal experience: We live in a connected world. This is not news at all. Even the amount of time spent with the devices doesn’t seem newsworthy. But there are a few items here that we might take a moment to think about.

First, there is no socio-techno divide. Technology is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the lives of every “Born Digital,” that’s kids born after 1989. You can no longer ask, “Should we get little Johnny a cell phone?” The question now is, “Which cell phone is best for little Johnny?” You can’t “protect” or “shield” kids from technology — it is a pervasive force in our culture. And, perhaps most importantly, you cannot alter how people’s behaviors will evolve with technology, you can only seek to understand it and make both the upside and downsides known.

I’m sure some of you will push back on the last point. After all, in our society we use the rule of law to regulate harmful acts and even harmful tools. You need a license to drive a car, buy a gun (in most States), you need a prescription to legally purchase drugs, you must have attained the age of majority to purchase tobacco products and alcohol. We even have child pornography laws to protect our children from sexual predators. I’m stating the obvious, most of us are completely aware of the laws surrounding the doing of life. You shouldn’t drive drunk. You shouldn’t break the speed limit. You shouldn’t download music or movie files you don’t have rights to, etc.

The problem is that police rarely come to your home and arrest you for file-sharing and you have to get caught to get a speeding ticket. When a 15-year-old girl sends a video of herself, naked and doing seductive things, to an 18-year-old boy she hardly knows, what should happen? She has broken any number of child pornography laws. So has he. What to do?

Moving on, if you are paying for your teen’s cell phone, should you have the right to read (and decode) the opening paragraph of this article? What would you do with the information? Would you listen to that conversation if it were a voice call? Would you eavesdrop if the conversation took place on your living room couch?

There was a “sexual revolution” in the 60’s. It was a decade of transition. Hippies, transformed into Disco Queens, LSD went out of vogue, Cocaine became the coin of the realm, each subsequent decade had its own kind of revolution. The 21st century finds its teens empowered with media tools — and they are using them in extremely social ways.

Before you can find a solution, you need to identify that you (all of us) have a problem. It’s a simple one best described by my favorite George Bernard Shaw quote: “Every profession is a conspiracy against the laity.” In this case, teens are the social media professionals and we are the lay public. Do you speak 14-year-old? Perhaps it’s time to learn.

kotl: Kiss on the lips.
iwsn: I want sex now.
gypo: Get your pants off.
l8r: Later.
now: Now.
2 c-p: Too sleepy.
459: I love you.
ruh: Are you horny?
143: I love you.
im so fah: I’m so f***ing hot.
gypo: Get your pants off.
lmirl: Let’s meet in real life.
no, gnoc: No, get naked on camera.
pir: Parents in room.
ttfn: Ta ta for now. Shelly Palmer


About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit


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