Sexting is becoming increasingly more common among teens. On Fight the New Drug, a website dedicated to fighting against porn, they report that 40% of teens are involved in sending and receiving sexually suggestive messages, 22% of teen girls and 18% of boys report sending semi-nude or nude pics, and 17% of sexters share the messages they receive with another person and 55% of those share them with multiple people. With sexting turning into a prevalent problem, it is important to understand the consequences of sexting and how to help you teen.
Private Sexts Becoming Public
Sexts rarely stay with the receiver. People often make private sexts into something public, sharing received sexts with friends and the internet. People can even go as far as uploading sexts onto revenge porn websites. Revenge porn sites are just like other porn sites, except that the pictures are of regular, everyday people who sent sexts to someone they had trusted. Those who upload sexts onto revenge porn websites are often malicious ex-lovers. Turning something so private into a permanent part of the online world can cause serious, emotionally distressing problems for teens.
Sexting and the Law
Teen sexting can come with legal issues. Many states consider teen sexting equal to child pornography. By law, minors caught sending, possessing, or distributing nude pictures can face major criminal charges. Eight states have enacted bills to protect minors from sexting and an additional thirteen states have proposed bills to legislation.
How can We Help our Teens?
With sexting becoming popular among teens, it is important that parents talk to their teens about it. Teaching teens about the dangers of sexting should coincide with education on romantic relationships, treating others respectfully, responding to sexual pressure, and making healthy decisions about sexual behavior. Parents should help their teens consider the consequences of sexting and teach them how to resist pressure to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
What if I Catch My Teen Sexting?
Talk it Out
Despite the emotions that you may feel upon discovering that your teen has been sexting, keep calm. Their actions do not define them, and casting harsh judgment may affect your teen’s self-esteem long term and their ability to communicate with you. Instead, sit down with your teen and calmly talk with them about the situation. What happened? What led them to share photos of themselves or someone else? Where did their curiosity to engage in this type of communication come from? Discuss with your teen the dangers and consequences of sexting.
Control the Situation
If your teen has nude photos on their phone, do not look at them and have your teen delete them right away. Your family will not want to risk having what is considered child pornography in the home or associated with your family. If you need to talk with other parents or your teen’s school, let your teen know and have a voice. Set limits on your teen’s social media use and texting and explain to them why you are setting these limits.
Help Your Teen
Recognize that sexting and its consequences can cause serious emotional damage within your teen. Let your teen know that you are there for support. Make an appointment with a therapist if you’re concerned about the way your teen is expressing their sexuality or if you feel like sexting has negatively impacted your teen’s well-being.