Teens and screens: What parents should know about ‘sexting’

What is sexting and why is it important for parents to know about it?

Teen hands texting

Image source: Thinkstock

There’s been a lot of talk in the media recently about “sexting.”  The term “sexting” seems to have appeared about 10 years ago. It refers to sending sexually-explicit photos or messages via cell phone or text messages.

A number of studies have been conducted looking into the prevalence of sexting among teenagers and young adults. A recent study showed that 20 percent of teenagers have sent or received such messages.

One of the concerning things about this is that most young people do not realize that once a message is sent, they have absolutely no control over that image. Few teens will think about the fact that sending a picture to their boyfriend may mean that all of his friends will have seen that same image within a few minutes. A break-up or fight between friends could lead to an embarrassing photo being displayed on Facebook or other social media site.

Even more concerning is where those forwarded messages may wind up. It is entirely possible that a provocative image meant for a boyfriend or girlfriend could eventually wind up on a child pornography site.

There is a very real danger of cyber-bullying, social isolation and/or serious depression as a consequence of those images or messages being put on public display.

Talk to your teens about sexting. Make sure that they are aware of the loss of privacy with any information that they send electronically or share on social media sites.

Once it’s out there, it cannot be taken back.

And talk honestly and openly with your kids. Just because you don’t think your child would do something like this doesn’t mean he or she won’t be the recipient of those images.

Check out these tips on talking about sexting with your teen at HealthyChildren.org.

Stay well!