Sexting is the act of sending sexually suggestive messages or pictures from your cell phone. These pictures are then often shared between multiple cell phones and often end up being posted on the Internet. This phenomenon has grown in popularity despite the rise of prosecutions that are now occurring across the country. If you are worried that your child could be sexting, there are several facts that you should be aware of. Some of these are:
• Teens are neurologically disposed to be more impulsive and less rational than adults, which makes it all the more crucial that they know the dangers of sexting. Although it will not be an easy conversation, parents should communicate to teens that school-wide embarrassment, legal consequences, and viral distribution across the Internet are among the very real risks of this seemingly inconsequential behavior. Stopping to think twice may make all the difference if your teen is thinking of pressing “send” on something that he or she might regret.
• Emphasize empathy-You should help your teen understand that sexting is not a two-way street: it’s more like a multi-lane highway. That means that kids who may not be sending sexting are receiving them, forwarding them to others, and contributing to a potentially malicious environment of gossip and harassment. You need to urge your child to think before forwarding sexually provocative images of other people and ask himself how would he feel if that were his image instead of someone else’s? Using empathy can help your teen make the decision to press “delete” instead of saving or forwarding.
• Work on teaching 21st century responsibility-Parents should understand that kids who may be model citizens offline can make big mistakes online, so it’s important to stress that responsible behavior extends to the world of email, text messaging, video chatting and social networking. You should make sure that your child knows that anything posted online, or sent via cell phones or email, can be saved, shared, and virally disseminated across the Internet. That means that friends, enemies, strangers, teachers, parents and future employers and college recruiters could potentially see your images and videos.
Parents should see sexting not as an isolated trend, but as a new expression that is fueled by technology, of the social and sexual experimentation that has always characterized adolescence. That means that the best way for parents to keep kids safe is still to send a message of their own, which emphasizes responsibility, explains the risks, and most importantly keeps the lines of communication open.
You should clearly discuss the ramifications of sexting. You need to tell your children that if he or she receives a picture and then goes on to distribute it he or she could be prosecuted for pornography. Clearly explain to your teenager that a picture of him or her that is sent does not just stop at one person’s inbox. It could end up on several Internet web sites.
If your child receives a picture, you cannot emphasize enough that any criminal offenses occur when a picture is distributed, not simply received. So if your child gets a picture that could be considered a form of sexting, tell them they should delete it immediately. If they are unsure, tell them they can always ask for your opinion. It can be helpful to create an open, nonjudgmental dialogue about this before it happens.
Parents should understand that their wireless company can help them. You can block third-party applications on your child’s phone. Keep in mind that these ring tones, games and apps cost money and can contain explicit content. Remember that you are paying for the access your child has to sexting.