Among the many discussion points surrounding the death of Cooper Harris is that of his father’s alleged sexting. It was revealed in a bond hearing July 3rd that Cooper’s father, Ross Harris, allegedly engaged in the act of sexting with as many as six women while his toddler was left to die in his car in the parking lot of his workplace.
Sexting is loosely defined. On a mobile device, sexting involves anything from sending flirty text messages to transmitting illicit photographs or videos of oneself. It’s estimated that as many as one in five smartphone users in America engages in sexting. Polling also shows that 11 percent of Americans aged 35 to 44 admit to having sent a sext, while 22 percent admit to having received a sext. The numbers climb even higher for younger Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 where 22 percent admit sending a sext while 34 percent have received one.
Exchanging material of a sexual nature, whether it’s the written word or photographs, isn’t exclusive to our current culture or even the younger generation. Technology has simply enabled us with new ways to engage in such behavior, bringing antiquated “love letters” into modern, digital form. In fact, a report will be released later this month revealing the sexually explicit love letters of Warren G. Harding, the 29th president of the United States.
While exchanging messages about sex may be nothing new, technology certainly provides new and creative ways to go about it. While harmless if consensual, it’s important to point out that it does have its dark sides. Ross Harris, for example, is alleged to have engaged in such behavior with a minor, calling into question the need to protect those who are vulnerable and underage. Such behavior also has the potential to result in cyberbullying or revenge porn, publically revealing intimate photos or messages as revenge against an ex-lover. Apps that cater to such behavior also can attract sexual predators or prostitution.
Sexting appears to be a more common phenomenon than we let on, yet we as a society judge it quickly and harshly. While the debate is open as to whether or not sexting is considered cheating, having an affair ranks at the absolute bottom of the list in terms of moral acceptability. Ninety-three percent of Americans say it is immoral to have an affair, which is more unacceptable than other issues polled such as suicide, cloning, polygamy and the death penalty.
Toddler's death brings sexting into spotlight (AJC, July 2014)
New Record Highs in Moral Acceptability (Gallup, May 2014)
Nearly 1 in 5 smartphone users are sexting (TODAY, June 2012)
More adults are sexting, poll finds (San Francisco Gate, February 2014)
President Harding’s steamy love letters with Carrie Phillips to go on display (Washington Post, July 2014)
One In Five Would Leave If They Discovered Partner Sexting With Someone Else; One Third Would Look The Other Way
Sexting: A Brief Guide for Educators and Parents (Cyberbullying Research Center)