Teen Talk, 2-28-13, Teens and Sexting
I inadvertently looked at the pictures on my daughter’s phone and discovered that she and her friends have been engaged in sexting pictures back and forth. I’m very concerned about this as I’m sure other parents are. Please discuss sexting and teens and consequences for making this choice. As parents we’re not quite clear how common this is. Please give us your advice.
At this time 30% of teens say they have sent nude photos of themselves via text or email according to a recent study published in archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, another 57% report being asked to send nude photos. Research does indicate that of the kids who have been found to be sexting, 72% admitted to having had sexual intercourse. Girls more often are asked to sext than boys. The peak age for sexting is around sixteen and seventeen years of age and seems to decline after eighteen. When teens agree, both the sender and the receiver could face serious consequences, so it is important that parents know the existing laws in their state. In some states participating in this kind of behavior can result in extreme consequences possible labeling as a sexual offender.
1. Educate your teens in a very thoughtful way. Teens need to have a better understanding of what sexting means which is sharing nude photos via phone or email. Make sure your teens understand the seriousness of sexting and spell out what is and what is not appropriate.
2. Adopt a healthy digital environment. Randomly monitor texts and emails. Simply knowing parents are going to check in is often a deterrent as far as participating in this process.
3. Talk to your teen about the responsibility. If someone sends them a photo they should delete it immediately and tell the sender not to send any more explicit photos because their cell phone is monitored.
4. Be very clear about the rules. Just the ownership of a cell phone implies ground rules, having checks of the phone. Software like “my mobile watchdog” allows parents to review texts and picture messages that teens send and receive on their cell phones as well as their email.
5. When there has been more than one incident of sexting, resort to an old school model cellphone where you allow phone usage with a very basic model with no texting capabilities.
6. Know the law. In some states it’s a misdemeanor, in some states it’s a felony.
In a lot of states possessing or transmitting nude or sexually suggestive photos under the age of eighteen is a felony. Mailing, promoting, delivery, transferring, transmitting, publishing, distributing and circulating all fall under this definition.
7. Know the dangers of sexting. When involved with sexting a new set of problems often occur. The photos can result for both the perpetrator and the person who has participated in shame, embarrassment, and harassment and often bullying. Another danger is the prospect of master distribution particularly in one school setting.
8. Check with your school to see if they have a policy against sexting and that your administration is prepared to manage this type of crisis particularly as this has mushroomed into a big, huge mess.
9. Remind your teen that sometimes these private photos not only resurface online but in some cases have landed young people on the sexual offenders list. Remember forwarding photos could result in emotional despair for another person.
10. If this is a continuing problem for your teen, parents it is important to overcome your feelings of anger and disappointment and understand that this may be a problem that you have to address from a professional standpoint. Oftentimes as parents you have to put aside your emotions and step up and develop your own support network with parents who have also been involved in the same thing. If sexting continues to be a problem, make sure it is not a function of an emotional problem. Seek help.
Information provided by Jane Marks & Associates