Suffolk County police in front of Kings Park High School...

Suffolk County police in front of Kings Park High School onTuesday morning, Nov. 10, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

When you heard about the sexting incident involving underage students in Kings Park and Smithtown, did you shake your head and groan? If you did, why?

Because you couldn't believe they were that stupid? Because some of them were suspended by their schools for being the recipient of such a text? Because some actually were arrested? Because you realized life in 2015 is complicated beyond what you could imagine?

The episode -- a sexual encounter between a 14-year-old boy and an underage girl recorded by another 14-year-old boy on a cellphone and sent to other kids -- certainly is a teaching moment. It's a learning moment, too. For teens. For parents. For schools. For all of us.

We don't know all the particulars here but we do know sexting is becoming more common. The degree to which it's a problem is not going to be solved by a criminal justice system with laws written to protect children from adults, not from each other. Attacking technology isn't the answer since kids always know more about that than parents.

Kids today navigate a minefield of mixed messages. Don't do that, parents say, then shell out for a concert ticket where Miley Cyrus acts out much of the behavior we fret about. Celebrities' fame is enhanced by a sex tape leaked -- unwittingly or not. Women are told to take control of their bodies and their sexuality and to make their own decisions.

Is this just generational change with kids now saying, "It's my body, I don't care who sees it?" Can they make that informed decision? Do immature minds understand ramifications, the meaning of reputation, the control you lose the second you give your image to someone else, the harassment that can follow, the way images last forever online?

Have the conversation. Let's learn from each other.

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