Teenagers and Sexting
The realization that your teenager is sexting is becoming more of a reality then ever before. Twenty-four percent of high school students have sexted someone of the opposite sex, at some point in their life. Some people think that the numbers are as high as 40% or more. So what is sexting, why are they sexting, what are some of the consequences and how do we get it to stop?
Sexting is the act of sending a nude photo, a partially nude photo or an an explicit message to another, mentioning something sexual. Most teenagers feel like they need to send a picture with their texts. Thirty-nine percent of all teens have sent an elicit message before. Thirty-seven percent of them are girls and forty percent are boys. Twenty percent of all teens have sent a nude or partially nude picture of them self to someone else. Twenty-two percent of them are girls and eighteen percent are boys.
So when we look at the statistics 1 out of every 2 kids have sexted someone before. If you think that your child is not doing that, please STOP and take another look. They could be creating fake accounts on certain chat sites. Sites where they can meet and talk to people that they do not know. Here is a list of some of the new websites or apps that your kids may be using: www.lol.com, Cupid’s Chat Room, Chat Me Up, Kik, Teen Chat, Teen Webcam Video, Random Chat Teens, SnapChat, and the list goes on and on. There are so many apps, that allow the kids to take videos of themselves, or pictures and send it to someone else they may or may not know. It is done within seconds, right on their phone. Something that started out so private turned into something very public.
Why Are They Doing This?
Peer pressure is the most common answer from teens. They say they do this because someone else asked them too. Others do it for attention. They want to feel pretty and so sending provocative images gives them that attention. Remember when you had a crush on someone and you had to physically talk to them on the phone or face-to-face. Well now you can do it over the phone. And, if you happen to send someone a message or picture that gets their attention, GREAT!! Now that other person will fall madly in love with you, or so they think. They may also be curious. The average age of someone who will sext is 13-16. They are at the age where exploration, hormones and experimentation with the opposite sex has begun. They have a hard time controlling their physical and emotional feelings. Finally teens think they are invincible. My favorite thing about talking to teens during a Bible study is how they think that they do not need to be serious about believing or following God, because they have a long life ahead of them. What they do not know is that may not be true. They could get in a car accident tomorrow and die.
There are a lot of emotional consequences. The first one is embarrassment. What if they sent a picture to their boyfriend, who then sends it to another friend, and they send it to another friend and so on. They go to school the next day and everyone is laughing at them because they saw their explicit video or picture. Sometimes bullying occurs in the form of cyber bullying, people calling them vulgar names or people excluding them from their group. People might see pictures of a quiet, straight A student and now they are calling her horrible names. They go to school and their whole world has changed. People now know a very intimate part about them and they can not get it back. They can feel guilt and shame. They feel like they are a horrible person for doing something that should be saved for marriage. How will their parents, God or even how will they forgive them self? Especially if they are only 13-16 years old. Finally they may feel hopeless. This usually occurs if they are bullied, the person they sent the picture to breaks up with them, or they have been ostracized from people at school. This is a dangerous feeling. As a teenager, hopelessness can lead to suicide.
There are also legal charges that can be brought up against the person that sent the picture. So if you have a daughter that sends an inappropriate photo to her boyfriend and someone finds out, she can be charged with a crime. Sexting is considered child pornography. If the person is brought up on charges and convicted they may have to register as a sex offender for years, or go to a juvenile center. Not to mention they may have a hard time getting into a good college, internship or job that they really wanted. All of these consequences can damage their life for a long time, if not forever.
How Do We Stop It?
First realize that you can not protect them from everything. But, talking with them about the real dangers of sexting is a start. Threatening them will probably not work nor will being a tyrant in your home. Teens need to feel that they can make choices on their own and let’s face it, they know way more about technology then we do.
Sitting down and telling your teen that you know about sexting and that you would like to talk with them about it is a good start. Tell them that you know that it is going on around them. Tell them the reasons why most teens are doing it, but make sure that you let them know about all of the serious consequences that could arise.
Make sure that you have a home environment that is welcoming. You want your teen to be able to talk with you, without you blowing up at them. They also need to know that you love them. that you will always love them. Just because they are older doesn’t mean that they need to hear that they are loved any less, actually it is the other way around. They need to know that they are a valuable part of the family.
Take time to do something with your teenager. I know that they are busy with their friends, school and sports, but they need time with their parents. Girls need to spend time with their father or older male role model that can show them attention in an appropriate way. Spending time with your kids at night is important.
Do not allow electronics in their bedrooms. This environment breeds sexting. They are all alone in bed, with their phone talking to people they know or not. Then someone starts talking to them. They start telling them how pretty they are, how nice they are, could you send me a picture of you? Could you send me a naughty picture of you? And the list goes on of how quickly their conversation turns into something sexual. When they are by them self in their bedroom, it’s harder to say “NO.”
Put parental controls or apps that help you to monitor your child’s technology devices. If you want more information check out: http://mashable.com/2013/08/09/how-to-prevent-porn-sexting/. Great site that will help you with all sorts of questions about parental controls, apps and other material that will help to keep your child safe.
Here are some other sites with great information about how to protect your child from sexting:
I pray that you take the time to talk with your child about sexting. Monitor their technology devices. Put parental controls on all of their devices. Spend time with them. This is a hard topic to discuss, but it needs to be done.