Teen Sexting and Why It Is Dangerous
Modern children can spend hours on their mobile devices surfing the Internet, playing games and especially chatting with their peers online. However, not all of those conversations appear to be completely safe and innocent. Sexting is not uncommon among teenagers nowadays. Every parent should know what consequences it may have for their child.
So, what is sexting? It means receiving or sending sexually explicit texts, images, videos via electronic devices (usually, smartphones) or the Internet.
There are two main issues with teen sexting. The first is that teen sexting is illegal, being considered as child pornography and may result in criminal charges. The second issue is that the kids involved in it don’t know where the explicit messages they send may land.
Nowadays, teen sexting statistics is quite alarming.
- According to a 2012 survey, around 20% of teenagers have sent nude/semi-nude images themselves, while 57% have been asked to send such messages;
- 80% of teens who admit of sexting are under the age of 18;
- 11% of girls aged 13 to 16 have been involved in sending sext messages;
- Sending nude/semi-nude images is more common for girls than boys – 22% of teen girls and 18% teen boys have sent sexually explicit photos.
The reasons why teens get drawn into sexting are different. Some kids send revealing messages to their peers as a prank, others (in particular, teen boys) are trying to flirt or hook up a girl in such a way. Often sexting is common for teens who are in a relationship with each other: around 70% of teens who have sexted, did that with their boyfriend/girlfriend.
Why is sexting a serious problem?
Whatever the reason is for sexting, it’s outcomes may be rather unpleasant. Here we can see the paradox: 75% of teens do realize that sexting may have serious negative consequences; but they do not understand that once an explicit text/image is sent via the Internet, they don’t control it anymore.
The text, photo or video stays on the Internet servers forever. Besides, the person who received it may easily share it with his/her peers, friends or classmates or even post online where it may be revealed to hundreds of people. The statistics show that 17% of sexters share images and videos they have received with others. Moreover, 55% of those who show sext messages to others, are likely to show them more than one person. Unfortunately, such things may happen when a teen wants to (cyber)bully or humiliate his/her peer, or when teens who were in a relationship, break up and want to hurt their ex by bringing intimate things into the public.
Behavior of a teen, whose explicit texts or photos got out, may change a lot. If parents feel that something is going wrong and notice any of the signs below, they should talk to a child and try to find out the reason. Among the main symptoms, one can mark out the following:
- being depressed;
- constantly sad or anxious;
- having changes in sleeping and/or eating habits;
- having social problems at school and fear of going to school;
- poor grades;
- loss of self-esteem;
- avoiding friends;
- loss of interest in hobbies;
- even alcohol and drug use.
Sexting and the law
Sexting laws were implemented not so long ago in order to catch up with the development of modern technologies. In the US court system sexting is defined as an act of sending sexually explicit materials, in the form of a text, photo, or video, through mobile devices. Today, all 50 states have some type of legal enforcement regarding the issue.
The fact of one teen sending sexually explicit texts or images to another teen that became known to the authorities may have serious legal consequences. If the one who sends or receives is a minor under the age of 18, they may be charged with possessing and distributing child porn. Even if the recipient is over the age of 18, it is still considered to be a crime. Such charge is really tough; if convicted, a teen will be required to register as sex offender. Hence, he can be obliged to report his home address, keep a distance from schools, parks and other places where children gather plus be legislated against working with kids for years or even for life.
The other prosecution option for minors caught on sexting may result in them being placed in a juvenile detention facility. In future, this can make getting a good education and job very problematic.
How to prevent sexting
Considering all this, parents should think in advance how to prevent their teens from sexting.
Most parents try not to violate their teens’ privacy, including the privacy of using mobile devices. If parents ask their kids to monitor their phones, children may feel that parents don’t trust them which, in turn, can cause problems in the family relationship. Moreover, children will just become more thorough in hiding the activity their parents might disapprove. That’s why the best way for parents is communication.
It is paramount for parents to talk to their adolescent kids about sexting before they may actually try it and therefore, face harsh consequences. Children should be aware of legal implications of sexting. Besides explaining that sexting may destroy a teen’s life both socially and legally, it may be helpful to let children read articles published by their coevals who became victims of sexting. Using special apps to monitor teens’ online activity may be helpful as well.