Youths, sex, and the internet

Reading the recent news article about the 17-year-old male teenager who had sex with a 10-year-old girl, one cannot help to think the dire environment which youngsters are brought up in today.

The wide range of media which helps us to communicate easily and transfer files and ideas with just a click, is also the same tool that is being used to coax and coach others to divulge and expose more a respectable person should.

Seems that maturity and responsibility is playing catch up to the tools which are available to today’s youngsters. It’s basically like giving youngsters a huge amount of money before they are thought how to spend/save it responsibly. Without supervision, such scenario will likely end with the young’uns doing whatever they please with the cash. Substitute “cash” for computers, handphones, and unlimited access to the media, and you have a recipe that is potentially disastrous.

Recent surveys also doesn’t seem to allay such fears; this one for instance states that:

Teenagers who watch a lot of television featuring flirting, necking, discussion of sex and sex scenes are much more likely than their peers to get pregnant or get a partner pregnant, according to the first study to directly link steamy programming to teen pregnancy.

The study, which tracked more than 700 12-to-17-year-olds for three years, found that those who viewed the most sexual content on TV were about twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy as those who saw the least.

Of course, there are critics citing the establishment of causal relationship (“It may be the kids who have an interest in sex watch shows with sexual content.”).

But another research supported the one above, saying:

One of the best predictors for early teen sex is television viewing, in part because television programs portray higher levels of sexuality for teens and adults than exists in reality, the researchers said.

“Communications theorists say that as we watch a lot of material like that, we come to believe that it is reality. In this case, kids who watch a lot of TV come to believe that all the kids really are having sex, so they’re going to do it too or they are going to be the odd one out,” Hyde, who reported the finding in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, explained.

But the influence of TV isn’t the only one to be blamed. Some suggested that listening to explicit lyrics may be linked to early sex in teens.

Researchers say they have found a strong link between early sexual experiences and popular songs that have offensive lyrics which degrade people – usually women – in a sexually explicit manner.

I was also reminded of a surve done by the local Malay Sunday papers on the 22nd of February 2009 (if I’m not mistaken). Their survey revealed that a significant percentage of students at the age of 11 have seen pornographic materials. This supports a much earlier survey conducted in the US of A, stating that:

Forty-two percent of youth Internet users [aged 10 to 17] had been exposed to online pornography in the past year.

Sure that doesn’t necessarily means that they will end having pre-marital sex or zina, but when life imitates art pornography, and the future generation is just keen on relieving themselves my mimicking such acts, what is there to be done?

What Solution?

This Malaysian activist recommended that kids’ handphones should be checked. There is no surefire way to eliminate the existence of such materials; thumbdrives, mini-SD cards, CDs, DVDs, are all easily concealable. Of course, these local kids still got caught.

In the UK, there are calls that some form of sex education “should begin at four.”

Meanwhile, a recent Harvard-led study concluded that education is still the best way to protect kids online. The internet is no babysitter, only the guardians can effectively educate their ward to use such powerful tools with maturity and responsibility.

Based on the research linking TVs and sex, a good start is not putting any ideas in their head.

Whose Influence?

Choice of entertainment definitely seems to correlate with the activity and behaviour that the youth engage in. Perhaps if the parents are those who enjoy watching MTV and glorifying Hollywood artistes, it may be of no surprise the child will be very familiar with the entertainment industry. Meaning, influence in their actions may also come from what he/she knows most about – songs and movies.

The right influence should come form the right people, not some actress or rap singer. It is important that they mix with the right crowd, both at home and outside.

The influence of the parents is so great that, from أبي هريرة RA, the Prophet SAW said:

كل مولود يولد على الفطرة، فأبواه يهودانه أو ينصرانه أو يمجسانه

“All children are born in the state of fitrah (nature). It is his parents that makes him a Jew or a Christian or a Majusi…”

– Muslim, al-Tarmidzi

The influence of friends is another vital issue. A hadith by أبي موسى الأشعري رضي الله عنه, that the Prophet SAW said:

إنما مثل الجليس الصالح والجليس السوء كحامل المسك ونافخ الكير، فحامل المسك إما أن يحذيك، وإما أن تبتاع منه، وإما أن تجد منه ريحًا طيبة، ونافخ الكير إما أن يحرق ثيابك، وإما أن تجد منه ريحًا خبيثة

“A good friend and a bad friend is like the perfume-seller and the blacksmith. The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might burn your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.”

– al-Bukhari and Muslim

That definitely sounds like a bad friend, alright.