My husband and I made a decision to give my daughter a basic cell phone several years ago for emergency purposes. Nevertheless, it wasn’t right up until recently we purchased her a smartphone for Valentine’s Day with an unlimited text messaging plan. It was a determination we made, mainly because she was using my cell phone to text her close friends continuously and I was missing important messages or calls. Even so, it wasn’t till a few months ago she became serious about an older boy (18) and she was spending too much time sending text messages to him. That relationship ended swiftly enough, but since then she’s been talking to a number of other various boys and the concern of sexting has been weighing on my mind. Don’t misunderstand me, I trust my daughter completely but I’m not oblivious to the peer pressure a fifteen year old confronts on an every day basis.
Based on a recently available study from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Cosmogirl.com, approximately one out of five teenagers has sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves, and two out of five have sent or posted sexually suggestive messages. How alarming is that? When I read the statistics I cringed! The worst part is although young adults know sexting is unethical, most aren’t aware about the entire legal ramifications that may go along with it. In reality, precisely the same minor that sends photos of themselves could become both a victim as well as a perpetrator of child pornography laws, thus being labeled as a child pornographer or sex offender for life.
Not only do teens who’ve made the big mistake of sexting need to worry about legal issues, they also have to be concerned with what happens to the photographs after they are sent. All too often, a teenage girl sends explicit photos to a boyfriend, intended exclusively for him. In the event the romantic relationship ends up in a nasty break up the boy takes vengeance by forwarding the images to friends, which leads to intense backlashing triggering emotional challenges. For instance, an 18 year old Ohio teen sent naked pictures of herself to her boyfriend. Once they split up, he in return sent those photos to other high school females. The girls began harassing her, calling her a slut and whore. The ridiculing from the girls caused Jessica to become frightened to attend school and she became dismal as well as depressed. Two months later, Jessica Logan hanged herself in her own bedroom. The complete story can be read here.
As parents it’s our responsibility to protect and guide our kids into adulthood. I realized it was my time to take a seat with my daughter and discuss the awkward subject matter of sexting. Her response was “MOM! I don’t know of anybody who is sexting!” Yet, her best friend sitting alongside her mentioned she was asked by a number of boys to send pictures of her “boobs” to them. I was mortified. As you can see, sexting might not be going on with your teen at the moment, but it most certainly could be happening to a person they know.
My advice is to those who have a teenager to take a moment together with your child and communicate to him/her about sexting along with the repercussions that go in conjunction with it. It might be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, nonetheless it will be much more problematic if it occurs. There is simply a small number of factors a parent can control following a sexting episode, so the best time to engage in this conversation is before you allow them to have a mobile phone or social networking account. When it comes to sexting, going for a proactive approach is being safe!
uKnow.com, the leading provider of Parental Intelligence Systems including uKnowKids, has five excellent tips to help parents prevent or manage a sexting incident. I want to share them with you, so you’re able to arm yourself with the information to take action against sexting.
Consequences: Talk about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, including yourself. You could get expelled, humiliated by your peers, lose educational opportunities or possibly face serious legal consequences.
Control: Once an image leaves your phone or computer, you have lost control of it. Phones get lost, computers get stolen, and social networking accounts get hacked. Never take an image of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone – your family, friends, and teachers – to see.
Don’t forward: You may find someone else’s photo funny; however, if you forward a sexual picture of someone underage, you are as responsible for this image as the original sender. You could face child pornography charges, go to jail, or have to register as a sex offender.
Report: Nude photos should be reported immediately to the parents/guardians of the originator, as well as school counselors, so that they can manage the situation.
Prevent it: As parents, we know that spying does not equal trust. Obviously, going behind your kid’s back to see what they are doing does not help you build a trusting relationship with your child. Stealing a phone at night when your child is asleep, or checking their social media accounts is not the only way to understand what they are doing.
Please have a seat with your child and speak about sexting! What is important to remember is being assertive in this subject is showing your teen you care about their greater wellbeing.