Did you know that sexting among teens is on the rise?
To the point that it’s now considered a common component of teen sexual behavior.
The reality is this Mom: It’s not a matter of “if” your daughter will be exposed to sexting, but “when.”
(With or without her consent).
Recently, a mom and a teen girl reached out to me about sexting via social media.
Both wanted me to discuss the topic on my platforms and share tips to help daughters/girls make healthy choices in this area.
“Could you share information regarding sharing inappropriate photos and talking sexually over Snapchat
or other disappearing messages? This is a struggle for my 16-year-old daughter and I’m sure many others.”
-Mom who contacted me on Facebook
Clearly, this is a message I need to address. So today’s post will honor their request.
Now, let’s talk sexting.
Starting with the definition.
The sending or receiving of sexual words, pictures, or videos via technology, typically a mobile phone.
And in the “Age of Social Media, Smart Phones and Selfies,” It’s no wonder why sexting among teens is on the rise.
The Prevalence of Sexting
According to a recent study completed by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, more than 1 in 4 teens reported that they had received a sext.
And more than 1 in 7 reported sending a sext.
Whenever I discuss the topic in 8thgrade classes with all girls (or in middle & high school assemblies), I ask them to raise their hands if they know a girl who has sent a nude or semi-nude picture to a guy over a cell phone.
Without fail, at least 75% of the girls will raise their hands.
I ask them if they’re all raising their hands because they all know the same person or whether a lot of girls do it.
And they always confirm that it’s not just one girl, but a lot of girls who do it.
I ask them why they think girls sext, and the most common answers are:
- They want attention.
- The boy asked for it.
- They want to make the guy happy/secure a relationship.
- They think it will boost their self-esteem if the boy says they are pretty.
Another recent study measured teen girls’ responses to young men who requested nude images.
Sadly, what stood out about this study is that while the majority of the girls did NOT want to send the photos, many of them did because they didn’t know how to say “NO.”
And that’s only part of the problem.
The Problem with Sexting
When talking to girls about sexting I explain to them that posting/sending nude pictures is a problem for a number of reasons:
1. It’s illegal—anytime any nudity goes across any electronic device of anyone under the age of 18 that is considered child pornography. Even if the picture is of themselves, they would be guilty of distribution of child pornography. If the picture is found on his phone, he’s guilty of possessing child pornography and if he forwards the picture, which many guys do, he is also guilty of distribution of child pornography. Girls also tell me they get unsolicited pictures from guys and I stress the importance of reporting it immediately so that the picture is not found on their phone.
2. Once they hit the send button, they no longer have any control over what happens to the picture. Ten to twenty years from now that picture could still be circulating. I then share stories of beauty pageant contestants who had to give up their crowns because nude pictures from their teen/young adult years surfaced.
“I’ve sent those types of inappropriate pictures to my ex-boyfriend and that’s because I loved him so much that I was okay with disrespecting myself just to please his sexual needs. Although none of my pictures have been released, I constantly live in fear that one day he may expose me just because. Not only did I let my mom down and lost all the trust she had for me, but I also let myself down. One day my poor choices may stop me from getting a job because once a picture is uploaded onto the Internet you can never fully delete it. I can’t change my past but I can make the best of my future and me and my current boyfriend are practicing abstinence.”
3. Teen girls have told me that guys use nude pictures to blackmail them into having sex. They threaten to ‘expose them’ if they don’t have sex with them.
“One time, this guy I dated would constantly pressure me to send him nudes and I felt like I loved him. So I decided to take a provocative (but not naked) picture and send it to him in Snapchat. To my horrible surprise, he screenshot it and I asked him to erase it. Whether he did or not, I’m not sure. We broke up because he kept pressuring me to have sex (which thank God it didn’t happen). Months later he told me he was looking at my pictures and I feel so insecure as to the fact of wondering if he’s even shown anybody and I’m so scared that someday to get back at me, he just might. That honestly haunts me so much that when I see him in the halls, I feel so mad at myself.”
4. Teen girls have also told me that abusive boyfriends have used the nude pictures to prevent them from leaving an abusive relationship. They hold the pictures over their head and threaten to expose them.
5. And as the young lady who reached out to me on Instagram noted, there are emotional consequences that come with sexting. The fear, shame, and humiliation that girls experience when their pics are shared is heartbreaking to say the least. Imagine how this young lady felt after sending risqué photos to a guy she hoped would become her boyfriend. Only to realize she made an unhealthy decision that caused her nothing but pain.
We both know that sexting is NOT healthy for your daughter.
Now she needs to know that she does NOT have to participate!
The Power to Say “No” to Sexting
Sexting may be trending but your daughter doesn’t have to follow.
Help her buck the trend by empowering her to say “NO” to sexting. Here’s how:
- Acknowledge that sexting is common and that sooner or later she will either receive a text or be asked to send one. Challenge your daughter to stand out on this issue, not fit in.
- Discuss the emotional, social, and even legal consequences of posting, sending and/or forwarding sexts. It’s not enough that she doesn’t take nude pics and post or send them. She also needs to delete any she may receive of someone else.
- Practice refusal skills. In the second study I referenced earlier, the researcher discovered that many girls simply did not know what to do when their boyfriends asked them to send nude photos. So help your daughter role-play how to say “NO” to the pressure.
No good can come from your daughter taking and sharing nude photos of herself.
So, the sooner you start having these conversations with her the better!
In addition to the tips I shared above, click here for a great resource from Common Sense Media that’ll help your daughter resist the pressure to sext.
Can you relate to the mom who reached out to me on Facebook because her daughter struggled with sharing inappropriate photos of herself? If so, how did/or will you respond to your daughter?