Christian Blogger Mom to Teenage Girls about Selfies : Cover Up on Social Media!
By: Erik Jacobsen
Christian Blogger Mom, Mrs. Hall, and Teenage Girl Selfies
In a blog post written a couple of days ago by Kimberly Hall (Click Here To Read It) – who is the Director of Women’s Ministry at All Saints Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas – teenage girls are advised to avoid posting provocative “selfies” on their social media accounts.
The problem, she indicates, is that her teenage sons will be tempted by these photos, and will not be able to “un-see” them – which may lead to all sorts of issues for both her sons and the girls in question.
Few parents – myself included – will disagree with Ms. Hall’s basic message about the need to manage our children’s presence on social media. My own daughters are probably about four to five years away from being allowed to sign up these services, but I have already given a great deal of thought about how I plan to keep an eye on them.
The problem with Ms. Hall’s piece, however, is that she focuses solely on the behavior of girls while completely ignoring how her sons should behave. And while scolding girls for being in “a state of undress”, she displays several photos of her own sons at the beach wearing only swim trunks.
According to one of Ms. Hall’s responses to those who have commented on the piece, she has received over 3,000 responses that she is working her way through – a number which is far higher than the 15-20 responses that she usually receives.
I took the time to put together a somewhat-lengthy but polite response, which I have copied below.
I have written previously on the topic of introducing teenagers to nudism and naturism (view it here: Teenage Naturists ) and the challenges inherent in undertaking such educational efforts. I think it’s useful that we remind ourselves from time to time about exactly the challenges we are up against. Young people eventually become adults, and have a tendency to carry with them the social norms and practices they learn in their youth.
One last note – if there are any Christian naturists among you, please take the time to leave a reply in the comments section of Ms. Hall’s blog post. I don’t know if she’ll publish all of the comments, but I think it would be worth alerting her to the existence of Christian nudists. As I am not a Christian, I did not mention it in my comment. You can also e-mail her at khall[at]allsaintsaustin[dot]org, which is her address at the church.
What follows is my reply to her:
Dear Mrs. Hall:
I’m glad to see that you realize including the photos of your boys was contrary to your message.
But I still have a problem with your original message to girls. I am the father of two young girls myself, so this hits close to home.
First things first.
1) “For one, it appears that you are not wearing a bra.”
Um…and why is this a problem? Must all women who post photos of themselves online be wearing a bra? How is it that you are so fixated on a girl’s breasts that you *notice she isn’t wearing a bra*? At what age should we start requiring girls to wear bras? Or how large should their breasts be before wearing a bra is required?
Do you see what I’m getting at here? The entire basis of your proposal is based on the subjective interpretation of photos. And I find the breast-fixation particularly problematic. But more on that later.
2) “Those posts don’t reflect who you are! We think you are lovely and interesting, and usually very smart. But, we had to cringe and wonder what you were trying to do? Who are you trying to reach? What are you trying to say?”
Why do you care? Is she injuring herself? Is she posting pictures of herself taking drugs? If so, then by all means, sound the alarm! But you know what I think she’s doing? I think she’s figuring out her body. And good for her. Because she is happy enough with her body to put pictures of herself online. And chances are her friends have seen this much of her if they’ve ever seen her in a bathing suit. The fact that the photo is taken in the bedroom is irrelevant.
And it’s great that you think she’s lovely and interesting. But have you told her that? Have any of her friends told her that? Guess what – now would be a good time! Our media are obsessed in presenting unrealistic representations of women, and these young girls are being constantly bombarded by hypersexualized caricatures of themselves. You know who gets labeled as “lovely and interesting” by the media? Miley Cyrus. That’s who. So instead of blocking your son’s friend’s pictures, why don’t you have your son tell her she’s lovely and interesting?
3) “I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of my teenage boys seeing you only in your towel. Did you know that once a male sees you in a state of undress, he can’t ever un-see it? You don’t want the Hall boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?”
And how exactly is it the girl’s fault that your sons see her in a sexual way?
You know what’s interesting about being human? Hundreds of years ago, before modern medicine, humans lived until about the age of 40 – if they were lucky. I mean, 40 was really old. This is why humans are capable of reproducing as early as 12 or 13 years old. Because that is when humans had to start reproducing if they were going to live long enough to make sure their children survived to adulthood.
Fast-forward to modern times, and guess what? Kids still start to develop sexually at about the same age as they did hundreds of years ago. But what’s different is that we have developed all of these rules and expectations about how kids can *express* that sexuality. I’m not in any way advocating that we should let kids start having sex that early. But what I *am* saying is that it is completely unrealistic to expect our children to completely ignore their bodies as they are beginning to change.
Also – have you taught your sons the difference between “a state of undress” and “sex”? They’re two different things, you know. Nudity is not a requirement for sex, and sex is not a requirement for nudity. God created us all naked. Clothing is our own human invention. God didn’t intend us to feel ashamed while we are in a state of undress, even if we are in the presence of others.
Here is an exercise for you and your family: research nudism and/or naturism together. (They’re closely related – both involve the practice of non-sexual nudity. Your research will help you understand the small differences between the two.)
4) “…RUN to your accounts and take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom.”
Again, I’ll bring out the swimsuit argument here. Listen, I was a teenage boy once. Believe me, it takes VERY LITTLE help to imagine a girl naked in her bedroom. If they’ve seen their female friends in swimsuits, online photos aren’t going to make much difference.
To conclude, I think there are a couple of lessons here:
First, teach your sons that women are their equals in every way.
As an adult, I have plenty of friends on Facebook who I don’t always agree with. But I don’t call them names, and I don’t block them. People express themselves in different ways.
We need to teach our children these things because most people who are sexually assaulted are assaulted by someone they know – either a friend or a relative.
About the Author (Author Profile)Erik Jakobsen works in New York City, lives in New Jersey and has been an avid nudist for 25 years. He is a frequent contributor to YNA's blogs.
I think( being young myself) that parents should oversea what their children do online and have limited veto powers be it on social media or elsewhere . That said I think If a young woman wants to express her self in a photo such as the one shown it should be ok for her to do so .She can not be held accountable for the feelings that arise in others after seeing it . However parents should discuss with their child the possible dangers(what if it goes viral ) and possible backlash(not everyone will see your choice as OK ) that may come with that action . Kids more so young girls today are going to do this period. adults do it it's silly to think your kids will NOT ! The key is do you want them to press the issue in secrecy or do you want to to have an open dialogue and acceptance of her choices and her body . What was most valuable to me was to know my parents trusted my judgment growing up. As well as knowing they had my back when said judgment came up lacking. And most importantly being able to discuss things without being judged and the freedom to make my own choices good or bad . Lastly being raised nudist I do now understand why my parents were had concerns about photos I may post or things others might see while we video chat. They talked to me endlessly about internet security and what others may view as inappropriate despite what I was raised to see as normal and still do !
Parents of young men should encourage them to take the proper and respectful attitudes. But, let's be realistic that the message won't take in all cases.
That's why it's critically important to teach young ladies about appropriate behavior on and off line.
The helpful instructions from parents need to be shared with both genders.
The article of Ms. Hall and Erics response, make valid points in my opinion. As naturists we experience the opposite sex nude in a way that does not objectify them. Therefore Eric makes great points - why should it matter whether the girl wears a bra? It shouldn't. On the other hand in naturism we also stand by clear rules - no overt public sexual/orgasmic behavior. We don't like to be in a naturist setting and have to worry about an intrusion of active sexual behavior. Sometimes people can be inappropriately provacative - with or without clothes. The issue of concern in my opinion is the degree to which the photos are seeking to be provocative - to entice someone into inappropriate behavior (a subject we are always debating in naturism and nudity as well). For most Christians sexual provocation, premarital sex, promiscuity etc. are considered inappropriate. It is a parents duty, to censor situations they feel are inappropriate for their children - in this case potential promiscuity. But to Eric's point, alarm should NOT be linked merely to the display of the semi-nude body. I would not be so hard on Ms. Hall, though Ms Hall could certainly learn from both the bible and Christian nudists - our naked body, including our genitals are beautiful, NOT onscene, and healthy and wholesome to behold at any age. Period.
I am a Christian nudist. I believe the point she should have tried to make is that young girls who are not ready for the attention they are going to receive should not be posting provocative images of themselves... PERIOD. Their state of dress or undress notwithstanding. A parent should also try to get to the heart of why their teen feels the need to be provocative rather than to just be. This is the tack I would take with my daughter.
Excellent article. I particularly like the way you made your points in a rational and non-confrontational way.
However, one side-issue I have to nit-pick about:
>> before modern medicine, humans lived until about the age of 40 – if they were lucky. I mean, 40 was really old.
Not true. This idea comes from a rather common misunderstanding of "Life Expectancy". This is generally seen as a "Maximum" age -- the point when people start dropping death. Actually, it's the MIDPOINT -- the age at which half the population will die before, and, more importantly, half the population will live BEYOND. Until recently, the age has been artificially low, due to high infant mortality rates. So, while a 40 year old might be considered "lucky" for reaching that age, he wouldn't be considered "old". Humans have regularly lived to into their 60s & 70s for thousands of years (Roman Emperor Tiberius died at 77; Claudius was assassinated at 66, King Herod was at least 60)
I noticed two things this morning. She has since changed her photos. Her story also made Good Morning America. Comments on the show indicated that while a parent's role is guidance, forced censorship is the wrong way to go (not exact words, my personal summary). Not to mention, I feel that such censorship only makes teenagers more curious, and if the only way they can satisfy their curiosity is through sex, they do things they might otherwise not do. Thanks Erik
Excellent article Erik! The points you covered are exactly the ones I was concerned about. As a father of 3 daughters, the original article really ticked me off! My oldest daughter and I had a discussion about it as well. She ended up explaining to her own boyfriend these same points.
Great post Erik. Perhaps some will now educate their kids rather than wanting to force others in the closet and close the door. I can still remember how easy it was to get exited and at that time and in my environment (I was raised as a christian) there was not much visual reason. That didn't prevent it. When I got drawn into the nudist world, (late teens), it soon became a lot easier to control. It is the educational part around developing bodies and how to deal with it that is so important. (Unfortunately that was completely lacking in my teenage years).