Nowadays, adolescents have a tendency to be stuck to their mobile devices. They're watching videos, posting photos, sending DMs, playing games, tweeting, Snapchatting — and some may be sexting. While teens might think it's a harmless and fun way of flirting, the dangers of teen sexting are real and can impact your teen's life in a very negative way.
What Is Teen Sexting?
Sexting is sending sexually explicit or provocative messages, photos or videos (such as naked or semi-naked pictures, selfies and videos) using a digital device. Sexts can also propose sex, refer to sexual acts or include videos that depict sex acts, simulated sex or nudity. It's vital that teens understand that once they hit send, the message is now out of their control.
Know the Risks
Regardless of age or relationship status, sending explicit messages comes with serious risks. Even if you trust the message recipient, devices can be hacked, lost or stolen, and private messages could resurface and come back to haunt you.
- Leaked photos or videos can show up on social media platforms or adult websites.
- Feelings of shame, humiliation and embarrassment can occur if private messages are shared. The sender may also get teased, bullied (including cyberbullied) or even blackmailed.
- Felony charges may be filed if the person in the intimate messages is under 18.
- Risky online behavior can negatively affect a person's close relationships, academic performance and reputation, and it could also impact his or her future in regard to college applications or job offers.
Talking With Teens
First and foremost, educate teens on the possible social and legal consequences of sending explicit messages. Talk openly about self-respect, how they can set boundaries and deal with peer pressure. Emphasize that it's OK to say no when someone asks for a nude photo or suggestive video, even if that person is their boyfriend/girlfriend/partner.
Encourage teens to:
- Report and block anyone sending them inappropriate messages.
- Refrain from harassing or bullying others, through text or otherwise.
- Avoid pressuring others to send or share sexual messages.
- Ignore unwanted messages from people they don't know.
If you or someone you love is receiving sexually harassing or threatening messages, seek help by contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline and www.loveisrespect.org. Visit KidsHealth to find more teen sexting information and resources.
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