Being a parent is a full-time job, and it doesn’t matter how old your kids get, there are always new problems and responsibilities for moms and dads to take into account. When your children are little, crying constantly and almost unable to do anything alone, you might wish for the day when they’re older and more independent.
But when they get older, all kinds of new issues arise.
One of those issues is sexting. Statistics and reports show that more and more teens are sexting, which means to send and receive sexually explicit messages and content with one another, and the potential risks of sexting are high. It’s only natural, therefore, that many parents are worried about sexting and unsure how to deal with it.
This guide will offer some helpful information for concerned moms and dads.
What Exactly Is Sexting?
If we take a look in the dictionary, we see that sexting is defined as the sending of sexually explicit materials via a cell phone. In reality, with so many gadgets and devices available to teens nowadays, the definition should be expanded to include e-mail, instant messenger chat rooms, and social media as well.
The term was created by blending together the words ‘sex’ and ‘text’, and sexting can take place between adults, as well as minors.
It can be perfectly legal when taking place between consenting adults, but when it comes to minors, the law is strict and many people, including minors themselves, have been punished to the full extent of the law for sharing, viewing, and creating sexually explicit materials.
Sexting Among Teens
Statistics show that sexting is prevalent among teens. Around 40% of American teens admit to posting and sending sexually explicit messages, with close to 20% of teen boys and girls admitting to sharing sexual images and videos with one another too.
When we look closer at the statistics, we can find some harrowing reading. 15% of teens admit to sending nude or semi-nude images of themselves to people online they’ve never even met in person, while over 60% of teens who have participated in sexting admit to doing it because they felt forced or pressured in some way.
Clearly, sexting among teens is a serious problem that must be taken seriously.
Not only is it illegal, but it’s also immensely risky and could lead to lifelong negative effects on those who participate. See below to learn more about the risks.
The Risks Of Sexting
Here are just some of the many risks associated with sexting. These risks are especially important for teens to take into account, but many can apply to adults who partake in sexting too:
- Illegal – As stated earlier on, sexting among minors is against the law and is even classed as child pornography in many states. Teens who send, create, share, or urge others to send them sexually explicit photos could be charged with disseminating child pornography, possessing child pornography, and ultimately being labeled as sex offenders.
- Sharing – Studies of sexting behavior among teens show that many young people who receive a sexually explicit image will actually go on to share it with others. So, even though a teen might think they’re only sharing something with their partner, their messages and images could in fact be viewed by many other people without any consent.
- Bullying and Blackmail – Sexting can quickly devolve into bullying. As stated above, many teens admit to feeling forced into sending these kinds of images, and once one has been sent and saved onto other devices, it becomes easy for individuals to be blackmailed into making and sharing more content or bullied, by having their images and messages shared around. The consequences of this kind of cyberbullying can be tragic.
- Predators – Teens aren’t the only ones involved with sexting. Since sexual predators are well aware of how many teens are sending these kinds of messages, many of them are making attempts to infiltrate teen texting networks and obtain images by posing as teens themselves. These kinds of photos do not tend to stay private for very long
What Can You Do?
Upon hearing about the risks and dangers of sexting, many parents want to take action but are unsure where to start. Teenagers are naturally curious and inquisitive about their sexuality, and it can be impossible to stop them doing something entirely, but there are steps you can take to at least talk to your teens and encourage them to avoid sexting.
- Talk About It – It might not be an easy conversation to have, but talking to your teen about sexting is one way to address the issue, helping to inform them of the potential risks they face if any images get shared or uploaded online, as well as the potential legal ramifications.
- Be Mature and Respectful – Treating your teen as a mature adult and speaking to them in a respectful way will help this kind of conversation flow more smoothly, letting them know that you trust them and only want the best for them.
- Don’t Go Too Far – You might be tempted to simply take your teen’s phone or computer away, but this kind of drastic action will usually have the opposite intended effect. Many teens are rebellious by nature and will find a way to do what they want, regardless of how many devices you take away from them. Again, try to respect them and treat them as adults.
- Be Open – It’s also important to let your teen know that they can talk to you and approach you if they’ve had experiences of sexting or if an image of theirs has been shared around. It can be very traumatic for teens to experience this kind of thing, but having a caring parent by their side will be a big help.
Sexting is a serious issue among modern youth, and with smartphones and tablets in almost every teen pocket, it’s not one that’s going to simply disappear anytime soon.
However, by knowing more about it, communicating with your children, and educating them on the real risks they face, you may be able to prevent it from affecting the lives of your kids.