A friend of mine was complaining about how her teenage children are always texting instead of speaking with one another and was horrified to find out her daughter had just received a picture of a male penis. She was horrified that anyone would do such a thing.
Unfortunately, with cell phone usage being at an all time high especially among teens, there is a new phenomenon called sexting. Wikepedia defines it as the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones.
According to a nationwide survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and unplanned pregnancy, 20% of all teens partake in the activity of sexting. Of course, if you were to ask any Orlando teen about sexting they would probably say it happens all the time!
In January, 2009 three teenage girls from Pennsylvania allegedly sent nude and semi nude cell phone photos of themselves to three male classmates who are being charged with child pornography. Another student in Texas was placed in juvenile detention center after his football coach discovered a nude photo of a classmate on his cell phone. This is a serious felony and could have long term affects.
Unfortunately, sexting poses a serious dilemma for teens, their parents and schools and no one seems to know what is best.
One mother wanted her daughter psychologically evaluated because she was concerned about her provocative behavior over the cell phone. What drives a young teenage girl to want others to see her naked? Other parents are concerned because of the relationship problems it can cause. Sometimes out of spite nude pictures are being sent. This causes a great strain in relationships among teens.
What teens call innocent flirting others are calling it pornographic and dangerous. In a study done last year by the University of Alberta, 90% of boys and 70% of girls ages 13 to 14 have viewed some kind of pornographic material. Today’s teens want notoriety and this is a way of gaining it. They like the attention they receive even if it is short lived and have devastating effects.
Tips for parents:
1. Talk openly with your teen about sexting and the serious felony charges they could received if caught
2. Help your teenager to see that even though they see it as innocent flirting it poses serious consequences and complications
3. Keep an open line of communication between you and your teen so they are free to express themselves to you.
4. T-Mobile & Sprint have online tools to limit texting and block certain phone numbers from texting from offenders.
NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below intact. Author: Deb Haughton, MA, LMHC