Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

No Safe Sext

How do you protect your teen from sexting?

Sexting is a problem and isn't going away anytime soon.  Studies show that sexting among teens is on the rise.  Why?  In the need of instant communication and gratification, many teens don't think about the consequences of what can happen when they snap that picture and send it off.  It's usually an impulsive act that can be done in a matter of minutes or even seconds.  Many teens report feeling pressured to sext by someone they are in a relationship or want to hook up with.  Sexting creates a hope and sometimes expectation that the couple will have sex and research supports teens who sext are more likely to have sex. 

Sexting is risky because it can ruin a person's reputation and once the picture is out the damage may be permanent.  Once a photo has made it to recipient, the damage has begun...  Even if things seem to be okay now, it's not uncommon for pictures to resurface years later and wreak havoc on a person's life.  As a teen it's hard to think about the future when you're so focused on what's happening now.  That is why parents play a crucial role in educating their teens about the ramifications of sexting.  

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What the research is says...

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch found that more than “half of teens have been asked to send a nude photo of themselves to someone, and 31% had requested a naked picture to be sent to them.”

Did you know that: 

 “Teens that sext are more likely to engage in sexual behavior.”

“Nearly 30% of U.S. teenagers are sexting, sending nude photos via email or text, according to a study that shows the behavior is more common than previously thought.”

"About 48% of teens have received a sexually suggestive message. "

"Almost 11% of young teenage girls, ages 13 to 16 have sexted nude or semi nude photos of themselves."

"Nearly 86% of teens who sext are not caught." 

"The percentage of sexting recipients who say that they have passed the images along to someone else is 17%."

Sexting in the News

Are you thinking "my teen wouldn't do that?"  These parents probably were thinking the same thing before their kids made headline news:

An App for Sexting? Really?

Actually there's more than one.  Several companies have started to capitalize on safe sext apps.  They are attempting to secure sexting photos or videos.  In fact, one App will automatically destroy any video or picture within a few seconds (usually 10 seconds) after it has been posted. 

Sound safe?  Think again...even these apps aren't fool proof.  People can easily take a screen shot of the picture within 10 seconds before it destroys!  They can even use a different device, their phone, for example to take the picture once it pops up on the screen.  The truth is there is no such thing as safe sext.

In case your teen is smart enough to do a little digging, there are sexting manuals out there free for perusing about how to have safe sext.  Think I'm kidding?  Google it. 

If you feel totally in the dark about technology, here are some great sites to help you monitor what your teen is doing online:

http://info.uknowkids.com/the-truth-about-sexting

http://www.onguardonline.gov/blog/protect-kids-online

http://www.wiredsafety.org

Protecting teens

  • Understand the legal ramifications of sexting.  Many teens have been jailed, and placed on probation all because of sexting.  Worse yet, they could be charged with the distribution of child pornography if a sexually explicit picture of a minor is being distributed.
  • Many college representatives and prospective job employers search online for information on potential candidates.  If they find something that is detrimental or shows poor judgment, it can actually hurt their chances of  getting into college or securing a job. 
  •  Be upfront with your teen about resisting peer pressure.  Teach them to be confident in who they are and not to feel pressured to do something they know is wrong. 
    • Speak with your teen about not responding impulsively to anything on-line or via text. Filtering can help a trigger happy 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.
    • Lastly, 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 his/her life.
  • Speak about online reputations.  Discuss how sexting may have a detrimental impact on what others will think of them.
  • Be honest about sex.  Speak with them about sex, meaningful relationships, STDs and pregnancy.  You would much rather have this talk in preventative mode rather than after something has already happened. 
  • Speak with your teen about being a responsible digital citizen.  Help your teen understand that messages or pictures sent over the Internet or phones are not private or anonymous. 
  • Discuss the need to periodically monitor pictures on the phone, websites visited and social media sites. 

The sexting phenomenon is not going to go away any time soon. In fact, as technology increases and teens become more tech savvy, they are going to experiment and make some foolish mistakes.  Unfortunately, what may seem like fun for now may be one of their most regrettable moments in the future.   Too many teens have been put in jail and placed on probation all because of a sext.  Reputations have been destroyed and lives have been altered due to a sext.  It is amazing that one picture, which takes less than a few seconds to take, holds the power to change a person's life forever.  One picture, one moment in time, too many consequences...It's just not worth it... 

Get teen sexting educational and research sites:

http://info.uknowkids.com/the-truth-about-sexting

http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/

http://www.covenanteyes.com/2010/12/21/13-stats-on-teens-and-sexting

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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