The ease by which teenagers access and use technology these days has allowed them to engage in sexting activities. Parents and schools need not be helpless and can actually clamp down in the sending of sexually explicit messages or images among teens and prevent serious problems from happening.
In a new study published in the journal Pediatrics this Jan., researchers have found out that a number of preteens and teens with ages ranging from 12 to 14 years old engage in sexting. The study also revealed that these adolescents are more likely to be involved in kissing, engaging in oral sex and even sexual intercourse than other adolescents who do not do sexting.
The study asked 420 seventh grade students coming from five urban public middle schools in Rhode Island about their use of mobile phones and sending someone sexual messages or images to flirt. The study revealed that 22 percent of the respondents did sexting and from this figure 17 percent have sent text messages only while 5 percent have sent both sexually explicit messages and photos. The researchers noted that teenagers who sexted are four times to seven times more likely to participate in actual sexual activities than their non-sexting friends.
What is troubling not only the researchers but also the parents and school administrators is the fact that sexting is already becoming a common activity among teenagers who use social media. According to a 16-year old high school student named Michael, sexting is popular in his school and his friends view this as just ordinary. He added that, “People post pictures of themselves on their Facebook pages.”
The researchers also noted that teenagers may be more technologically savvy than their parents, yet their immaturity may lead them to make actions that they would regret later on. How then can parents and school administrators help adolescents and teens with regard to the sexting issue?
Since sexting involves the use of the latest information technology and devices, Alexandra Sifferlin of Time Magazine advised countering it too with technology. According to her, some parents have already resorted to using apps like the EyeGuardian, which alerts parents every time an explicit or abusive content is shared on their child’s Facebook account. It can also protect children from bullying and suspicious friends.
Another app that can be utilized against sexting is ZipIt. A teen using the app who has received messages asking for sexually explicit photos will find that the app can then suggests alternative memes to defllkect such requests. According to Sifferlin, the app can send “…a photo of a trash can with the corresponding text, ‘here’s a picture of my junk’.”
Also in an effort to curb sexting among its students, Eton College in the U.K. has already banned the use of Snapchat from its private network. According to Tony Little, the head master of the college, “This is part of our continuing effort to educate boys in the sensible use of technology.” He added that students can unfortunately still access and do sexting through their individual phone’s 3G network. Blocking the students’ access on their college network can “make them think twice.” Snapchat has been extensively used by the students to send photos or videos of themselves to friends but once opened by the intended recipient, the content self-destructs within 10 seconds.
It is also important for parents to remind their children to always think about the consequences when they intend to do sexting. Such consequences could include losing an academic or sports scholarship, humiliation and the child might get in trouble with the law. Parents should also remind their children not to take photos of themselves that they would not want their teachers, relatives or classmates to see. Parents should also make sure to control children who hypertext or those who send more than 120 text messages per day.
These steps when taken altogether might prove to be effective in clamping down on teens who do sexting. What is also important for parents with preteen and teen children is to be always aware of their children’s social media activities and provide them with the proper guidance and care.
By Roberto I. Belda