The Cellular Generation:

Think your teens are using their cell phones only to keep in touch with you? Or maybe to make plans to see a movie with friends? Think again.

According to recent news reports, many teens are using cell phones to circulate nude photos of themselves. As one of our bloggers at The Point noted recently, girls and boys have come a long way from passing notes around in class.

What is going on here? For one thing, in the Internet age, pornography is an everyday reality in the lives of many teens. It has become normalized.

Add advanced personal technology like modern cell phones to the mix, and we have got a real problem, according to noted San Diego State psychology professor Jean Twenge. “Adolescents are not known for thinking things through,” she writes. “That is a generational constant. . . . Now, with the technology that is out there, instead of taking a picture,” she says, “and passing it around the classroom, it’s online, which is a whole different ball game.”

And don’t think this is just a problem among un-churched kids. “It crosses every racial socio-economic group. Christian kids are doing it. Jewish kids are doing it,” said Candice Kelsey, author of Generation MySpace: Helping Your Teens Survive Online Adolescence. Even kids who do not want any part of this are liable to receive a text message from a classmate with an obscene photograph.

Buy why are kids doing this? Well, one study found that teens today place a lot of emphasis on fame and image. And considering the provocative news about young starlets from Britney Spears to Lindsay Lohan, girls particularly feel pressure to be racy. “They don’t see anything wrong with it,” one Ohio principal said, speaking of their cell phones. “It leaves me speechless.”

Well, it should not leave parents, teachers, or youth leaders without words. Rather than chalk it up to youthful foolishness, we need to talk to teens-frankly, honestly, openly, lovingly, and sooner rather than later.

Young people need to hear that their worth is not found in the image they portray, but in the “fearful and wonderful” way that God made them-that they are made in His image, and are, therefore, infinitely valuable. Young women need to hear that their beauty comes in their chastity-not in giving themselves away for a few moments of supposed fame or love. And of course, teach your son that he should respect the young woman sitting next to them in class. She is, after all, a daughter of the King.

Yes, your teens may roll their eyes, but remind them it is actually cool to remain chaste and pure in heart. I have talked to you before about authors like Lauren Winner, whose books laud the virtue of chastity. And then there is Wendy Shalit, whose book Girls Gone Mild tells of young women who have discovered the joy of modesty. Visit our website,, and we will point you to good books and websites for your young people that will reinforce the points you are making.

Let us help our young people to use a phone just to make phone calls-and to learn the value of saying, “No, thanks. I’m worth too much just to give myself away.”

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage