Your Teen & Sexting
Over half of all teens have been asked at some point to send naked or explicit pictures of themselves to another person on their phone or through social media. Scary statistic, right? But what can you do, as a parent, to help them understand the dangers of sexting and to avoid any permanent damage to your teen and their reputation?
What Is Sexting?
Sexting is sending, receiving, or forwarding any sexually explicit message, photograph, or image. It occurs primarily between mobile phones, but can also be messaged through social media apps, such as Snapchat.
Why Are Teens Sexting?
Some teens are using sexting as a form of flirting or a way of showing affection for a boyfriend or girlfriend or someone that s/he is interested in dating. It can be impulsive behavior, caused by peer pressure or bullying or alcohol/drugs. Some teens even view sexting as a form of “safe sex,” since there’s no risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
What Are The Consequences Of Sexting?
The consequences of sexting can range from nothing at all to extremely serious, depending on the situation and who stops the behavior. In a lot of cases, the image or text conversation doesn’t go beyond the person it was sent to, so nothing happens. However, that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t get worse. If, down the road, the recipient shares that information with others or posts it online, it can wreck a teen’s life! As we know from our blog post about The Dark Side Of Sharing Photos On The Internet, once those photos are out there, it’s impossible to get them back.
Once images are seen by others, it can get much more serious and legal issues come into play. Criminal prosecution and/or fines can be instituted, especially if the images are of underage or teenage minors. In addition, psychological issues can come into play, such as increased bullying, social isolation, shaming, severe anxiety, fear, depression, digital self-harm, or even suicide.
What Can Parents Do About Their Teen Sexting?
The first thing would be to make sure that the conversation is relaxed and in a comfortable setting. As parents, we know that these talks get awkward for us and for our kids. Expressing concerns in a conversational, non-judgmental, non-confrontational way makes for a much easier talk. Keep in mind, prevention is better than a cure… Don’t wait until you HAVE TO talk to your teen to start this conversation.
What Other Steps Can Parents Take?
- Help your teen realize how s/he might feel if these photos or private conversations were shared with others or posted online for public consumption. Sexting is not a “harmless activity.”
- Help him or her realize not only the social ramifications, but the future (jobs and colleges looking at their digital tattoo) and legal consequences as well.
- Stay alert on your child’s use of digital media and technology. If you’re not up-to-date on the apps they’re using, brush up on your knowledge here.
- If your child has received any nude pictures or inappropriate texts, have them delete them immediately. You can’t run the risk of having what could be deemed “child pornography” on any of your devices.
- Connect your child with one or more positive role model(s) for them to follow.
- Share a bit each day about your daily social media usage as a way to guide the conversation about responsible social media use for your teens.
- Help your child to feel more confident in their own abilities and in their own bodies.
- Encourage your child to lean into positive relationships in their lives.
- Talk with the parents of the other teen(s) involved in the conversation, and potentially even the school, to address the issue and head off future incidences.
Interested in more?
Check out Common Sense Education’s Sexting Handbook that gives families the language and support to “take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands.”
Smart Girl Society, Inc., is an Omaha-based nonprofit working to educate and inspire Smart & Confident girls, women, & families. Through educational workshops, civil outreach programs, and technology & social media research, we work with girls, parents, & educators to authenticity on social media and in real life. We educate how to remain safe on social media and how to avoid becoming a target of sextortion. We also inspire action for students to focus on their personal brand development, leadership, educational opportunities, and healthy social skills. Interested in learning more? Check us out!