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Sexting

With the advancement of technology, almost every teen has many avenues to get online: via smartphones, tablets, and laptops, all of which can be used in private. It is very easy for teens to create and share personal photos and videos of themselves without their parents knowing about it. Any sort of photo, video, or message that shows someone doing or saying something embarrassing or offensive can be damaging to reputation. And, this is especially true if there is nudity, sex, or sexually suggestive content involved. This type of sharing, known as “sexting”, has the potential to haunt a teen for the rest of his or her life. The operational definition of sexting is described as under.

What Is Sexting?

Sexting (or “sex texting”) is the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images, messages, or video via a cellphone or the Internet. Examples of sexting include sending:

  • nude or nearly nude photos or "selfies"
  • videos that show nudity, sex acts, or simulated sex
  • text messages that propose sex or refer to sex acts

Consequences of Sexting

Teens should understand that messages, pictures, or videos sent via the Internet or smartphones are never truly private or anonymous. In seconds they can be out there for all of the world to see. Young people may think ‘sexting’ is harmless but it can leave them vulnerable to:

  • Blackmail - An offender may threaten to share the pictures with the child’s family and friends unless the child sends money or more images.
  • Bullying - If images are shared with their peers or in school, the child may be bullied.
  • Unwanted attention - Images posted online can attract the attention of sex offenders, who know how to search for, collect and modify such images.
  • Emotional Distress - Children may feel embarrassed and humiliated. If they are very distressed this could lead to suicide or self-harm even.

If a compromising image of your teen goes public or gets sent to others, your teen could be at risk of humiliation, embarrassment, and public ridicule. Even worse, it could damage your teen’s self-image and possibly lead to depression and other mental health issues.

What Parents should know

Attributes like decision-making skills, judgement, and ideas about privacy in a teenager are not fully developed at his/her age and these are at a process of being formed. It can be hard for them to grasp the permanent consequences of their impulsive interactions. Just as they might not consider how smoking could lead to long-term health problems, they can be reluctant to curb their “share everything” tendencies now for the sake of their reputations later. One of the top responsibilities of parents is to teach their kids how to take responsibility for their own safety and their own actions. It is important to guide and tell children about the virtual world too.

What Parents can do?

First – Have a conversation

We need to make sure that our children are aware of the dangers of sexting. They need to clearly know that

  • they are breaking the law and the consequences of being charged with those offences, and
  • that photos sent and received can be forwarded to others without their consent and may end up being seen by hundreds of people.

Second – Set down clear rules

We need to tell our children that we know they may well be tempted to send a picture of themselves at some point, but that they absolutely must resist this urge. Remind them again of the reasons. Tell them when they turn 18, if they chose to do this in a relationship, then that will be their business. It is absolutely against family rules to send a photo of themselves or any part of themselves naked.

Don’t be vague about this, be very specific and clear. Also let them know that if you ever discover that this has happened, you would take away their phone from them so as to curb their temptation and teach them a lesson.

Third – Monitor their texting

Children and adolescents need not be allowed 100 per cent privacy for what they do, say and hear online and with their phones, for their own sake. While parents pay for their phone bills, or even if they do not – while children are under age – as parents, tell them that parents must have some level of knowledge of what they are texting. This does not mean parents will check every text. But it does mean that occasional checking may happen. It means that phones are not allowed in bedrooms with closed doors at night. It means that teens cannot put lock on their phones that parents may not know about. As teens get older (16 and 17 for example) it may be that more privacy could be negotiated.

Fourth – Keep your relationship with your child/children healthy

Finally, parents need to make sure they keep on pursuing good relationship with their teens. In general this means:

  • Showing interest in their lives (without being nosy for the sake of it)
  • Prioritizing one on one time with your children
  • Speaking respectfully and calmly (as we are with adults) even when children make mistakes
  • Showing admiration and thanking them often (even when we need to look hard for things to do this for)
  • Forgiving and allowing mistakes

When parents do these things for teens, they are more likely to have a good relationship with their children, and we could help/guide our children through these kinds of tricky issues that our society now faces.

Source : Raising Happy children and providing safe childhoods - A Reader by Ministry of Women and Child Development



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