Teen Sexting – the risks and how to protect your kids

Two words you would rather not have together – Teen Sexting.  Even if you don’t know what sexting is, it all just sounds wrong.

What is sexting?

As an adult, you may or may not have sexted in your lifetime.  It is a new-age pastime since the rise and rise of smartphones, although an explicitly written letter may have qualified back in the day.  But, when it comes to the actual imagery shared, people have been sending risqué photos of themselves to others since the days of cameras.

With smartphones and online platforms, it makes it much easier to send out naughty messages and compromising pictures.  With our teenagers and sometimes even younger than 13 kids, they are very much aware of the age of instant gratification.

So, what are the risks of teen sexting?

In a couple of seconds, you can take and send a photo of yourself.  And, what our teens seem to forget is that once its sent, its gone, swallowed up into the cyber world.

While they may think it’s okay because they are sending it to a boyfriend or a good pal, strange things happen when it comes to media. Horrific stories have been publicized, where teens have been at the mercy of so-called-boyfriends, who have splashed their nude photos across the world wide web.  Sometimes after a breakup, sometimes because they have received money for the image, but most often because it’s just cool to do it.

We may not be able to comprehend why teenagers do what they do, or for that matter, some adults, but it is best to try understanding as best you can.

Why do teens feel the need to sext?

The stats show, that 38% of teens believe that by sharing sexy content, like photos and words, helps them to secure dates and hook-ups.

A further 29% say that sharing in this manner is an expected norm when it comes to the dating world of teens

You may have forgotten what it was like to be in that tween-stage, not quite an adult, but not a kid anymore.  Acceptance is ultimate, and today by conforming, no matter the risks, is on the up and up.


How can you protect your teen?

The talk about the risks of teen sexting should go hand in hand with the birds and bees talk, and along with internet security risks.  You may not like to think that your sweet child would even consider sending, never mind taking a naked photo of themselves, but they just might.

It is important to remember that should your teen decide to revert to this form of communication with others, that it does not mean you are a bad parent.  We are a, generally, inquisitive race, and this is how we learn.  Just be sure you have given them all the facts.

A few tips for parents on broaching the sexting topic with their teens

  • Tell them about where imagery can land up and why – talk around trafficking and cyber bullying in particular
  • They may not realize that under-age nude photos are considered child pornography and is a rife and unfortunately huge business in South Africa and the world over
  • Remind them that they are special and that their body should remain private, until they have met someone that deserves to share their body with them. (this one is difficult, because when love or infatuation sets in, your teen will think that person is the one)
  • Go further on that point to say that its best not to share such revealing pictures with anyone. Should they wish to be intimate, do it in person, followed by the lesson on being safe, of course

Be super sensitive with your teen around this subject and sex in general.  You don’t want to alienate them and risk losing them to the darkness.  Try to put yourself in their shoes but be firm about your beliefs and what you consider the right way to handle things.