These days just about every kid over the age of 10 has a smartphone, laptop, or iPad. They are online, tech savvy, and tech connected.
This isn’t such a bad thing, necessarily, and most of the time this is no big deal. They use their phones and electronic devices to connect with friends, engage socially, do homework, perform research, write papers, collaborate on assignments, exchange ideas, and keep in contact with their teachers.
Cells phones are often how many parents keep in touch with their teenagers during the workday or on busy weekends.
But, what if your teen were sharing TOO much via their cell phone? What if what they were sharing was a bit too PERSONAL?
Sexting (or "sex texting") is the sending or receiving of risqué, sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images, messages, or video via a cellphone or the Internet. Examples of sexting include sending:
- nude or nearly nude photos or selfies
- videos that show nudity, sex acts, or simulated sex
- text messages that propose sex or refer to sex acts
Believe it or not, sexting is exceedingly common place. According to Do Something:
- Nearly 40% of all teenagers have posted or sent sexually suggestive messages, but this practice is more common among boys than girls
- Sending semi-nude or nude photos is more common among teens girls; 22% of teen girls report sending images of this nature, while only 18% of same age boys have
Other studies have found that about one out of every five-to-ten teens have sent sexually suggestive pictures. And about one out of every three-to-eight teens have received them.
The studies focused mainly on pictures, not sexually suggestive comments, messages, or tweets. The percentage of teens involved in sexting goes up if written sexual content is included, but it's not clear by how much.
But, why would a teen sext? Many girls sext as a joke, as a way of getting attention, or because of "pressure from guys." Guys sometimes blame "pressure from friends." But for some, it's almost become normal behavior, a way of flirting, being seen as cool, or becoming popular. And teens get some reinforcement for that when lewd celebrity pictures and videos go mainstream and the consequences are greater fame and reality TV shows, not ruined careers or humiliation.
As a parent, what should you do if you suspect that your teen is sexting? Here are some tips:
- Encourage open conversation: Talk to your teen about appropriate and inappropriate sharing and use of technology. Discuss consequences and the reality that there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet.
- Discuss self-esteem and empowerment issues. Why is your teen wanting to share explicit photos? How does it make him or her feel?
- Talk about Internet safety, or have your child take an Internet Safety class.
- Know your child’s friends…both offline and online.
- Make sure your teen’s online profiles don't have private or personal identifying information (e.g., phone numbers, addresses, etc.)
- Make sure your teen understands that once pictures are out there, there's no way of getting them back, even if they're deleted from their phone or computer. This is a scary reality about operating online. Let your teens know that www not only stands for "World Wide Web" it also stands for "Whole World's Watching."
- Teach your teen to not respond impulsively to anything online or via text. Taking a moment can stop a teen from making a permanent, potentially life altering mistake. Encourage your teen to evaluate the consequences of posting their thoughts or pictures before hitting the send button.
- Periodically check your child’s computer gallery. Make them share with you their username and password to any social media account.
- Most importantly, encourage an open dialogue between you and your teen. Set aside some time each day to just listen and talk with your teen about what's going on in their life.
The bottom line is communication and empowering your teen to be discerning about boundaries and appropriate sharing.
Call Foundations Counseling today to learn more.