THINK Before You Press Send

sextingTeen sexting statistics have become more and more serious since the invention of the camera phone and the popularity of taking “selfies.” Unfortunately, it is here to stay.   It can take the form of a message or a picture.  Often, teens add sexually explicit messages with the photo.  Teens need to become aware of where these will eventually end up.  When revealing photos become public, technology makes it possible for an image or message to be posted on a social networking site or sent to others by way of email or a text.

Boys more often pressure girls to send pictures.  Statistics show that 24% of girls between ages of 14 and 17 and 33% of college-age girls have sent a nude or semi-nude photo to someone.  Girls do so because guys have pressured them and guys are the ones that send the explicit messages.  They sext to show off, to entice someone, to show interest in someone or to prove commitment.

Dating partners commonly sext.  About 15% send the photos to people they have never met.  (They have met on the internet, but never in person.)  Forty percent do this as a joke, 34% to feel desirable, and 12% feel pressured.

Sexting is serious.  It is impossible to control information in the world of technology where anything can be copied, sent, posted and seen by huge audiences. The intention of sexting does not matter, even it was sent as a token of love.  Technology makes it possible for everyone to see a child’s most intimate self. Furthermore, sharing sexual images of minors is illegal, and may result in serious consequences.

Teens do not understand the consequences of this act.  They believe that the message or photo will be for the receiver’s eyes only.  This is not always the case.  Often, when teens break-up, they will “get back” at one another by sharing the photo or the message with classmates or post it on the internet.  Once the image is on the internet, it is there forever.  Teens have a great deal of trust in their partners in a relationship, making them feel there is no danger in sending the image.  It is quite devastating for the sender when the message becomes public, usually resulting in long-term effects.

When a sexted message becomes public, a teen will likely exhibit depression or anxiety, social problems at school, poor grades, withdraw from friends or may avoid social activities.  They lose their self-esteem, are often bullied, fear going to school, or abuse alcohol or drugs, and may have difficulty sleeping and have a loss of appetite.

Laws have been implemented to “catch up” with technology and the invention of various electronic devices.  United States court system defines sexting as “an act of sending sexually explicit materials through mobile phones, in the form of a text, photo, or video.  Many states have enacted legislation to protect minors from sexting.  Look for more information on prosecution and how parents can help prevent sexting in the future.

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