Sexting is the act of sending images of a sexual nature via cell phone, often naked pictures. Because texting technology is so readily available and easy to understand, parents should be quite leery of telling themselves, “Oh, MY kid would never do that!” Studies showy your kid already did it. 12-17 year olds sext. And studies show 50-75 year olds do it as much as 18-25 year olds. Picture that!
Sexting is not the same as when a teen shows a naked Polaroid photo to the crowd huddled in front of the school lockers. The eight people that where huddled is where the image stops. If a digital photo is shared via sexting, the whole world could be viewing it within 30 minutes. Kids have taken their lives as a result of this same scenario.
The bigger issue is that teens normally don’t think about the illegality of sexting images of kids under 18. In many cases this is considered child pornography. Kids have been prosecuted as perpetrators of child porn when they themselves were the victims. So parents, ask your kids, “Did you know that if you get caught sexting, you could be convicted of child porn and—for the rest of your life—be a registered sex offender?”
And why might your kid sext?
- The same reason they might smoke or drink: peer pressure.
- To feel grown-up or the thrill of doing something “naughty.”
- Low self-esteem.
- To get the recipient interested in them.
- Coercion. Every child connected to the internet is susceptible. If your kid is unsupervised online, there is a solid chance they have connected to a predator.
A teen could end up a horrible statistic and in other cases get five years’ probation—just for sending out one nude photo.
Suppose your child never sexts. Don’t count out the possibility that they are capable of forwarding a received sext. In the eyes of the law, forwarding someone else’s sext is just as illegal as being the original sexter.
More Tips on Prevention
- In a relaxed setting, discuss digital privacy with your kids.
- For kids new to cell phone use or about to be, inform them you will conduct random monitoring of images. Tell this also to kids who’ve been using the phones for a while. Make sure they understand you’ll be looking at images, not reading texts.
- Invite them to share with you what they know about classmates who sext.
- Present yourself as their ally, not some judge or critic. Let them know that you know why teens are tempted to sext. Get them talking.
- Inform them that you’ll be legally required to turn their phone in to the police if you find lewd images on it. Otherwise, as a parent, you are an accomplice to a crime.
- Ask your kids how they’d manage life living with a child pornography conviction.
- Make cell phones prohibited in their bedroom at night.
- Keep the phone chargers in your room.
Habitual sexting, like any ongoing bad behavior, is a symptom of skewered family dynamics. Kids from a stable home life where they feel valued are less likely to get hooked on sexting.