Teen sexting is on the rise among teenagers.
Sexting, the primary form of self-porn, is not something that is in our DNA, rather it is a learned behavior and in today’s smartphone world it is on the rise among teenagers. And the concern of the harmful effects of sexting is on the rise among parents, teachers and leaders. A study of over 110,000 participants found that nearly 15% of teens had sent a sext and approximately 27% received one. The research also showed that teens are more likely to send or receive texts as they age, “which lends credence to the notion that youth sexting may be an emerging, and potentially normal, component of sexual behavior and development.”
Many studies indicate that students are now using the primary communication and information tool of the day, their mobile phone, to explore what sex is and their own sexuality. And they are doing so on their own without sufficient context and or guidance. A 2012 National Education Association study showed that one in five teens have sent or posted nude or sexually suggestive photos to others. The harmful effects that one sexually suggestive message, post, or video can have on both the sender and receiver are not always understood or acknowledge by kids or adults, alike. The normalization of publishing sexually embarrassing photos – often stolen – impacts thousands of lives each year.
What are some harmful effects of sexting among teens?
- Exposure to adult sexual predators
- Psychological distress such as regret, betrayal and shame
- Bullying, cyberbullying and harassment
- Damage to one’s reputation or defamation
- Identity threat
Without tracking and remediating outing and cyber-harassment, “the damage caused by these attacks can crush careers, tear apart families, and, in the worst cases, has led to suicide” noted Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA).
Why has the habit of sexting flourished?
As human beings we are wired to seek the paths of least resistance in getting to our daily rewards – food, rest, entertainment and sex. Our smartphones are great for speed and efficiency of finding what we want – the provider of the path of least resistance we constantly seek. In today’s world we are increasingly connected to the digital world through our smartphones. Nearly 92% of Millennials own a smartphone and nearly 85% say they use social media according to the Pew Research Center. And this rapid growth in popularity of social media and dating apps such as Snapchat, Bumble and Tinder, along with simple texting, expose teens to both voluntary and involuntary, unsafe digital communication such as sexting and self-porn.
Why do teens engage in sexting?
- Peer pressure to do it “because their friends are doing it
- Belief that there is little to no social consequence if they sext
- Feel it has become the norm in a relationship to engage in sexting
- Coerced into sexting or receiving unsolicited sexts
- Lack understanding of the capabilities of the digital tools they are using
- Lack understanding of the long-term psychological, emotional and social effects it can have on them or the person receiving the sext
What do we do as parents, teachers and leaders?
There are many ways parents, teachers and leaders can address this growing concern. We must take a proactive and restorative approach rather than protective or reactive. By opening up a line of communication, providing context and educating our kids and students on the social and emotional effects of sexting we will help them make informed decisions of their own in the future. Here are some helpful tips:
- Ask your kid/student why they felt like they should publish these posts or send these messages
- Discuss how it made them feel sending the messages
- Discuss how they thought it made the person receiving the message feel
- Ask them what they would do differently next time
- Open up an ongoing conversation about healthy relationships and safe sex so it does not feel like “the talk”
- Stay informed on how your kid’s school is handling similar situations and if students are being protected by their school
- Technology and social media helped create the problem. Now they’re reapplied to fix it. Watch Video
- Schools can’t stop kids from sexting. More technology can. New York Times. Read more
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