Sexting is a growing concern for many parents. Parents used to simply worry about the physical and emotional consequences of risky sexual behavior that was physical. Today’s technology takes having “the talk” with one’s children to a whole new level, and parents have to consider the consequences of not only physical sexual activity but also the consequences of sexual activity such as sexting. Experts say that parents should consider including the topic of sexting into any “birds and bees” talk they have with their teens.
Sexting is on the rise in teens, and as more teens get smartphones, this rate of sexting is expected to increase. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, roughly 20 percent of teens, boys and girls, have sexted someone. Sexting occurs when an individual sends either a sexually explicit message or a naked photo of themselves. What many teens do not realize is the full effect that can come from sending someone a naked picture of one’s self.
A teen girl may feel that it is okay to send a naked picture to her boyfriend, but what she might not consider is that he then has the potential to share that picture with anyone he feels like sharing it with. That could mean showing friends, sending it to friends, or even posting it on social media. This is not limited to just girls however, teen boys are sending naked pictures of themselves as well. They run the same risk of their girlfriend sharing the photo.
Another option for teens who are experimenting with sending naked pictures of themselves are apps like SnapChat which may give them a degree of false safety. SnapChat, and other similar apps, destroy posted messages after a certain number of seconds. This may give teens a false sense of safety thinking that the message will be destroyed. What they might not consider is that it is possible for someone to take a screenshot of the photo before it is destroyed.
What should parents include in their sexting talk they have with their teens? There are several important points to highlight. One is that a picture sent has the possibility of lasting forever, and being seen by thousands upon thousands of individuals. Lieutenant Smith of the Anne Arundel County Police Department says, “We’ll lock people up for this,” but continues, “that doesn’t erase the picture that’s out for thousands and thousands of people to see.” It is important for teens to know these pictures cannot, and will not, just disappear.
Another important point to talk about with teens is that sexting can be illegal because it can be considered child pornography if the pictures are of a sexual nature. When an individual who is under the age of 18 sends a naked picture of themselves to another person they can be charged with transmitting child pornography. The individual who the picture is of is typically thought of as the victim, because their picture may end up on a variety of different sites, but the victim can also be the suspect because they transmitted the photo.
Parents may want to consider discussing the long-lasting effects that putting a naked picture of one’s self out there can have for teens. It can have an impact on getting into college, on jobs that the teen may want in the future, and more, especially if the teen is charged with criminal charges.
Sexting is a topic that parents need to address. Along with including the topic of sexting into talks with their teens, parents should also monitor their teens phone and internet accounts. Being aware of what their teen is doing can go a long way in keeping their teen safe.
By Ashley Campbell