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Table Talk – Conversation Starters about Celebrities, Sexts, and Suicide

Last Updated: July 27, 2021

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

Using fresh news stories can be a great way for parents to spark discussions with their kids and teens about how to be a good cyber citizen. “Table Talk” is a series on Breaking Free, passing along recent headlines about Internet temptations and dangers. Use the questions provided to get your family thinking about Internet safety and responsibility.

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The Shock. The Horror. Ashton Kutcher Steps Back from Twitter

In case you missed the headlines, Penn State’s head coach of 46 years, Joe Paterno, was fired this month. The Board of Trustees fired Paterno over the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal that erupted only a few days earlier.

Ashton Kutcher, like many at that time, was unaware of the scandal, and he fired off a tweet to his 8.2 million followers saying, “How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste.” His apparent lack of sensitivity to a delicate and controversial situation sparked some angry replies, especially since Kutcher founded an organization that fights child sex slavery.

Kutcher is known for being the first Twitter user to hit over a million followers and still ranks in the top 10 most followed people on Twitter. After the faux pas, Kutcher wrote on his blog, “Up until today, I have posted virtually every one of my tweets on my own, but clearly the platform has become too big to be managed by a single individual.” Kutcher has decided to turn the management of his twitter feed over to his team at Katalyst Media.

Kutcher adds, “It seems that today that twitter has grown into a mass publishing platform, where ones tweets quickly become news that is broadcast around the world and misinformation becomes volatile fodder for critics.”

Discussion Questions:

  • Have you or any of your friends ever used Twitter? What do you think of it?
  • Always being connected to the Internet, we have the ability to fire off messages at the click of a button from nearly anywhere. Kutcher’s story helps us to see the danger of speaking too quickly. Have you ever seen this happen online? Have you or any of your friends typed a rash comment?

Study Shows Depression Linked to Sexting Among Teens

Sexting is the act of sending, posting, or receiving explicit/nude photos or videos by cell phone or online. How is this behavior linked to mental health?

A recent survey of 23,000 high school students in the Boston area indicates:

  • 13% said they have received “sext” messages.
  • 10% of them have “sexted” a photo or video of somebody they know in the last year.
  • 5% have had a photo/video of themselves sent by someone else.

The survey found that twice as many students who are involved in sexting report symptoms of depression compared to youth who do not sext (36% vs. 17%). And there are other significant correlations. Students who more frequently use their cell phones to text or e-mail are more likely to be involved in sexting. And students who have had sexual intercourse are five times more likely to be involved in sexting than virgins.

Lead researcher Shari Kessel Schneider, points out that this study is not meant to show causation: sexting does not necessarily make you depressed. “It’s a cross-sectional study—it shows an association but not a causal relationship,” she commented.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you know anyone who has sexted? Have you heard of others your age distributing sext messages of others?
  • Why do you think someone who is depressed would be more likely to want to send a sext of themselves?
  • If you ever receive a sext from someone, how do you think you should respond?

Sexual Abuse Victim Tweets 144 Times Before Committing Suicide

On Monday, November 7, high school senior Ashley Billasano stayed home from school and suffocated herself. But before this she posted over 100 tweets over the course of 6 hours.

At 6:44 in the morning, Ashley tweeted, “Staying home today. Can I reach 1000 tweets??? I’m thinking yes!” Three hours later she said, “Hummm wish somebody would text me,” followed by “Kinda lonely right now.” Around 10 a.m. she started giving details of her sexual abuse and allegedly being pimped out by her own father. She tweeted about the frustration over the police investigation.

At 1:39 she tweeted, “The guys I’ve been with, ha none of them care. They just look at me like I’m just some other hoe,” followed by, “I guess I am. I don’t know how else to be. It’s not my fault. Somebody else chose that for me.” Then seven minutes later, “I’d love to hear what you have to say. But I won’t be around.”

Her final tweet at 2:08 was, “Take two. Hope I get this right.”

None of her 500 “followers” replied or did anything about this flurry of tweets.

Her best friend told the Houston Chronicle, “She planned this for a reason. She made a decision that this was what she was going to do to get attention if she was not going to get justice…She needed to get her point across and to make it known that she was wronged.”

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you think people tweet expecting to be heard?
  • Have you heard of people turning to social media like Facebook or Twitter in moments of great depression or pain?
  • Perhaps Ashley thought Twitter was the best way to cry for help or just a creative way to draw attention to her case. How helpless do you think Ashley felt?