Sexting And What It Means For Your Children

 

Sexting. It’s becoming a more and more serious issue for teens as technology has become so accessible. But what is "sexting," exactly?

When teenagers (ages 13-19) share sexually explicit messages and/or nude photos of themselves or others through texting or on the Internet.

While it may be hard to imagine, the reality is that many teens are participating or have seen sexting. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com polled 653 teens (ages 13-19) with an online survey. Here's what they found:

  • 20% of all teens (22% girls, 18% boys) say they have sent/posted nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves
  • 39% of all teens (37% girls, 40% boys) say they are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages
  • 44% of teens say it is common for a sexually suggestive text message to get shared with people other than the intended recipient
  • 36% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.

So who are teens even sending these sexting messages to?

According to the survey, 71% of girls and 67% of boys say the messages are intended for their boyfriend/girlfriend while 21% of the girls and 39% of boys polled admitted that their message was intended for someone they liked, wanted to date or hook up with. While 15% of all teens say they have sent or posted nude/semi-nude images of themselves to someone they only knew through the Internet.

What are the consequences of sexting?

Unfortunately, many teens do not realize the consequences of sending these messages, both legally and socially. Teens should be made aware of the following:

  • Do not assume that the message will remain private.
  • Once the content (words or images) have been shared, it’s out there — there's no "changing your mind."
  • The legal ramifications of sexting for teens varies from state to state but may include charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, creating, distributing and possessing child pornography, engaging a minor in a “prohibited sexual act” or simulate a “prohibited sexual act,” indecency with a child or being put on the sexual offender registry.

To find out the laws in your state. go HERE.  

What can parents/caregivers do to help stop sexting?

First, talk to your teens. Just like you need to talk to them about sex and relationships, sexting needs to be addressed as well.

Remind them that they should not give in to pressure and do something that makes them uncomfortable and also emphasize that everything posted online or when sexting will have consequences.

Habitually monitor their online activity: Facebook profiles, YouTube accounts and other online profiles — but make sure they know you are checking up on them and why.

Consider limiting the time they spend on their phones or online. Ensure that your kids know what you expect of them and what you consider appropriate and inappropriate. Boundaries are set in other aspects of teen’s life to keep them safe; cyberspace now needs to be one of them.

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