You don’t expect your twelve-year-old to be able to answer the question “what is sexting?”, much less to engage in it. Unfortunately, 54% of teens under the age of 18 admit to having sent sexually-tinged messages or inappropriate pictures. Having the “sexting” talk with your tweens and teens is becoming even more critical than ever, and chances are you should have it sooner than you think.
The Dangers of Sexting
Kids will be kids, right? At least they aren’t doing it in person. You’d like to convince yourself that sexting is fairly harmless. The repercussions of sexting, however, can stay with your child for a long time.
Teens and tweens who sext are more likely to engage in other sexual behavior.
Sexting starts to break down barriers against sexual behavior, making it easier for teens and tweens to cross the line in other ways. A nude picture on your child’s phone might not be grounds for immediate birth control, but it’s definitely grounds for a conversation about appropriate sexual behavior.
They’re sharing what they see. If your teen is sending nude or partially nude pictures to their significant other, they might be at more risk than you think: as many as 17% of the teens and tweens who have received these text messages admit to sharing them with someone else, and 55% of those individuals don’t stop at sharing them with one person. Once that picture leaves your child’s phone, it’s out there; and no matter how much they trust the person they’re showing it to, the chance exists that someone else is going to see it. Photos that have been shared with the wrong person can lead to bullying and other negative behaviors.
Sexting definition Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexting
They’re pressuring each other into it. Girls, in particular, are susceptible to sending pictures not because they want to, but because they feel that their boyfriend has pressured them into it. 70% of kids who sext do so with their boyfriend or girlfriend, and as many as 61% of them admit that they felt pressured into the act.
Legal ramifications can last for a long time. In some states, sharing nude pictures of a minor–even through texting or other means–is considered a criminal offense.
How They’re Sexting
Most teens and tweens are in a stage of their lives where they are curious about sexuality and about each other’s bodies. They’re sexting because they see it as harmless fun. They don’t think about the potential repercussions, and they assume that what bad things they do think about–for example, the pictures getting shared–won’t happen to them. Most teens, especially those around 16 and 17, see this as a perfectly ordinary way to interact with their peers.
Kids are sending nude and partially nude pictures of themselves. They send pictures of specific parts, pictures of their whole body, and messages about what they’d “like to do” to each other. To this technologically-savvy generation, sexting is little more than an advanced form of flirting. After all, they have a phone screen between them and the person they’re talking to. In their minds, it doesn’t mean anything.
Talking About Sexting With Your Kids & Teens
As parents, it is our responsibility to start the dialogue about sexting early and have it with your children and teens often. Ideally, you want to keep having this conversation well into early adulthood. You can’t change the way an entire generation views sexting, but you can change the way it’s handled in your household.
Remind your child that their body is their own. Just like they have the right to say no to a physical sexual act, they have the right to say no to sending a picture that makes them uncomfortable. Reminding your child of this can help give them the confidence they need to stick to their convictions.
Discuss forethought. Would it make them uncomfortable for you to see a picture that they’ve sent? If so, that should be a red flag that the picture shouldn’t go out over the internet.
Ask them what they’re sending. Having an open dialogue with your child makes it easier for them to share what they’re dealing with. You want to know if your child has been pressured to sext or has engaged in inappropriate texting behavior. Regular discussion and an attitude that seeks to help, rather than condemn, will help keep your child from making mistakes that they can’t take back.
Download this infographic as a PDF: Netsanity Sexting Guide Instant Download
Using Parental Controls to Make Sexting a Non-Issue
Additionally, we always recommend using a quality mobile parental control on all of your kids and teens mobile devices. Netsanity offers a suite of parental control services you will find to be lifesavers! Some parents have found that sexting and inappropriate picture taking has already become a problem.
Also published on Medium.