Parents—Are Your Kids Sexting?
What is sexting?
Sexting, slang for “sexual texting,” is the sending or receiving of a sexually suggestive text, photo, or video via a device. Teens often participate in this kind of interaction to look cool, fit in, flirt or have a “safe” alternative to sex without physical interaction. While it may not transmit STDs, sexting is far from safe. Once a sexually explicit photo is sent to another person, control of that image is out of that person’s hands, and distribution of explicit images of minors is illegal under federal law.
Constant access to smartphones and devices in society has allowed an unprecedented amount of interaction among teens. According to a 2010 study on sexting:
- 39% of teens admit to sexting.
- More than one in four adolescents have sent a nude picture of themselves through electronic means.
- Half of all adolescents have been asked to send a nude picture of themselves.
- 51% of girls say they feel pressure to take and send explicit photos of themselves.
Here are some tips from the OffenderWatch team to help your child avoid sending and requesting sexually explicit material:
- Remind them that you will always support them in times of trouble. Sexting can be a very scary subject to talk about, but you need to build trust with your child so that you can be a person to talk to about serious subjects.
- Ask them if they have talked about sexting with their peers to get an idea of how widespread it is within their social circles.
- Once a photo is spread through the web, it’s accessible forever. Tell them the social and legal risks associated with sending a nude to another person. Lack of control of a personal image is dangerous, and distribution or ownership of explicit materials can result in legal action.
- Tell your child that if they’re being threatened or blackmailed by someone to send a nude photo that they need to tell you immediately.
- Discuss safe cellphone use and set proper boundaries for access as a family.
As another precaution, parents should download our free safety app called Safe Virtual Neighborhood. With the app, you’ll be able to find sex offenders around your home, find sex offenders near your child’s smartphone device, contact law enforcement, and receive free alerts about sex offenders moving into your neighborhood.