Whatever the appeal of sexting is to kids (attention), it's definitely there, and won't be going away too soon. Of all the things that teens can do in their daily lives, why spend time sexting?
- To feel cool
- To get a crush's attention
- To make a relationship seem more serious
- To harass the recipient
- Peer pressure
- ATTENTION, SHOCK, AWE, SEX.
Before the advent of sexting, teens talked sex and even shared racy photos with each other. But the old-fashioned way meant that the only viewers were the people with the teen.
Sexting, on the other hand, means that the communication-including naked images-can spread to thousands of people like wildfire. Privacy is zero. Furthermore, it's illegal for teens to sext.
Just how bad can it get?
Well, if teen Jesse Logan were still alive, we could ask her how it felt when her classmates harassed her after her nude image got out to other students after she merely sent it to her boyfriend. Unfortunately, she killed herself over this.
I'm sure she wouldn't have sent him the photo had she known of the wide-reaching potential of sexting. Can we blame her for not anticipating the school-wide circulation of her photo? Whose responsibility is it to teach kids this stuff? Maybe even her parents were in the dark; not all adults are savvy about the dangers of cyberspace.
Calling All Parents...
- Sit down with your child and talk. Choose a good time to do this. Maybe include their favorite snack. But just get it done. Be pre-emptive. Don't wait for a bad sexting situation to arise.
- Collect real-life stories of teen sexting incidents gone horrible and share them with your child.
- Instruct them to immediately delete any sexual content that's sent to them.
- Explain how the Internet works and how easy it is for sext content to "get out there."
- Recognize that the peer pressure to sext is similar to the peer pressure to drink and smoke. Don't just tell your kids what not to do. Role play with them. Recruit an older teen to do some staged pressuring. See how your child responds. Does your child stammer and find it difficult to vocalize resistance? Are they at a loss for words? Is their body language mousy? If the answer is "yes" to these, you have a big job to get done fast.