Children and teens are now growing up during a time of digital socialization. They’re texting, tweeting, snapchatting, all the things you didn’t do, or even knew would exist, when you were their age. Sometimes you may wonder what are they doing spending so much time on their devices? Socializing digitally is something that is ever-changing. As parents and caretakers, it can be hard to keep up with the newest trends in social media. We may not always have a clear idea about what our children are doing and what they have access to.
A recent study indicated that about 1 in 4 teens has sent and/or received sexually explicit messages.
With so many of our teens participating in sexting and parents’ lack of knowledge of social media platforms, how do you have the conversation about the risks of sexting? First, let’s understand the risks.
The snapchat may only last for 3 seconds, but the effects can be permanent
Teens often use Snapchat to communicate with their peers. Users that frequent this app are familiar with the idea that their “snaps” will disappear within a time limit. The user is in control over the time limit before sending the image. Many teens think it is okay to send a sexually explicit image over this app. They believe the image (or video) will disappear and will no longer be retrievable after the set time limit. However, teens don’t always consider the possibility that the other user has the ability to take a “screenshot” of the image they sent. While the teen will be notified if another user screenshots their photo, there is nothing they can do to be sure the recipient doesn’t save it…or share it with others. Additionally the recipient could even use a friend’s phone to take a picture of the image. The teen wouldn’t even know that the image was captured. It is important that your teen knows that once the image or video is sent, it’s out there permanently for virtually ANYONE to view.
Images and videos are easily shared
Once the sext is received, it can be shared with almost anyone with an electronic device, over countless social media apps. Many smartphones and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, have the capability of sending messages to multiple people at one time through a group chat. Once a message is delivered to the recipient, it can be easily shared with countless people in a short period of time, essentially spreading like wildfire.
Sending and Receiving Sexually Explicit Images of Individuals Under 18 Years Old is a Crime
For teens, they may not understand a nude image of an individual under the age of 18 is a crime.. The state of New Jersey has very strict laws against sexually explicit images of minors, also know as child pornography. Those who take the image, distribute it, and receive it are all committing a crime with serious consequences. These consequences can include paying hefty penalties, legal action, and even registering as a sex offender (even if the individual themselves is under 18. Furthermore this could severely impact the chances of obtaining a job or getting into a good college.
Sexting in Relationships
Being a teenager is a phase of life in which the teen is learning and growing through developing friendships. They are experiencing the beginnings of romantic relationships. Pressure from peers and significant others is incredibly stressful because teens want to fit in. Therefore this may cause them to fall into bad situations. Many teens will admit they sent sexts because they felt pressured by their boyfriend or girlfriend. Your teen should know that this type of pressure from a significant other demonstrates a lack of respect. While your teen is just beginning to explore romantic relationships at this stage of life, it is imperative that they learn the importance of a mutual respect within relationships.
Considering the Possibility of “Sextortion”
Sextortion involves blackmailing the individual who is in the sexually explicit image or video. Children and teens can be deceived through fake online profiles. A perpetrator may create a fake account to appear as a teen and request sexually explicit images. Once the perpetrator has these images, they will threaten to release them online, unless your teen sends more images. Your teen may fall into this trap and continue to send the perpetrator sexts. Sextortion can happen if your teen is photographed or videotaped while engaging in sexual acts and then the material is used against them. If your teen becomes a victim of sextortion, the FBI recommends calling the local FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI
Staying in the loop with new forms of social media and having open conversations with your children will not only give you peace of mind, but it can keep your kids safe. Stay tuned for the next blog in this series which provides helpful tips on how you can speak to your t(w)eens on the dangers of sexing.