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What is Teenage Sexting?
Teenage Sexting occurs when a teen takes a flirtatious, nude, semi-nude or otherwise sexually revealing picture of him or herself and sends it to others via cell phone or other means of texting device. Commonsense.org has created a handout about this important topic. This blog shares excerpts from that handout, “Common Sense on Talking About ‘Sexting.’”
While experts differ on statistics, a 2010 study conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project confirms teenage sexting is a reality that’s here to stay. Kids “sext” to show off, to entice someone, to show interest in someone, or to prove commitment. Besides pictures, teenage sexting has a language all its own–even using it gives the message a risque sort of feel.
Sending these pictures or messages is problematic enough, but the real challenge comes when this content is shared broadly. As far too many teens have found out, the recipient of their teenage sexting is in possession of a highly compromising image or message that can be easily posted on a social networking site or sent to others via email or text.
In a technology world where anything can be copied, sent, posted, and seen by huge audiences, there’s no such thing as being able to control information. The intention doesn’t matter — even if a photo was taken and sent as a token of love, for example, the technology makes it possible for everyone to see your child’s most intimate self. In the hands of teens, when revealing photos are made public, the subject almost always ends up feeling humiliated. Furthermore, sending sexual images to minors is against the law, and some states have begun prosecuting kids for child pornography or felony obscenity.
Some Facts About Teenage Sexting
- 22% of teen girls and 20% of teen boys have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves over the Internet or their phones.
- 22% of teens admit that technology makes them personally more forward and aggressive.
- 38% of teens say exchanging sexy content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely.
- 29% of teens believe those exchanging sexy content are “expected” to date or hook up.
(All of the above are from CosmoGirl and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2009.)
Teenage Sexting—What Parents Can Do
Don’t wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child’s friend before you talk about the consequences of teenage sexting. Sure, talking about sex or dating with teens can be uncomfortable, but it’s better to have the talk before something happens.
Remind your kids that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved — and they will lose control of it. Ask teens how they would feel if their teachers, parents, or the entire school saw the picture, because that happens all the time.
Talk about pressures to send revealing photos. Let teens know that you understand how they can be pushed or dared into sending something. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation of teenage sexting can be hundreds of times worse.
Teach your children that the buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, they should delete it immediately. It’s better to be part of the solution than the problem. Besides, if they do send it on, they’re distributing pornography — and that’s against the law.
Check out ThatsNotCool.com. It’s a fabulous site that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands. It’s also a great resource for parents who are uncomfortable dealing directly with this issue.
For a copy of the full handout click here
How about you? How are you dealing with your kids about the whole sexting issue?