Sexting is not only an adult thing. At the educational conference in London, Mandy Saligari, the director of the Harley Street Rehab Clinic, announced that many of her 13-year-old patients think that sexting is appropriate.
For the record, sexting is sending the sexually explicit material (videos, photos, text) to another person.
In the United States, 39% of teens have sent a sexually explicit message and 48% have received them (the 2017 survey of 1,280 responders). Unfortunately, only a few know that child sexting is illegal and criminalized.
Why do kids sext?
There are multiple reasons for teen sexting. Mandy Saligari says it’s a matter of self-respect and the lack of identity. Here are other possible reasons:
To attract a potential love mate
Teen girls believe that sending photos with naked or half-naked body parts will help draw potential boyfriends. At this age, relationships are not stable but the material which is gone public often ruins reputation and life.
Teens want to fit in the school social environment and comply with its silent policy. They are afraid of losing friends and becoming isolated from the teen culture and groups.
Teens explore new ways to express their feelings. The tech often comes in handy when they want to impress somebody visually.
There’s a cult of hot bodies fueled by Instagram. Girls contemplate their bodies and want others to do the same. So, they send a hot body picture to a boyfriend. At schools, these pictures often go viral.
Rebellious behavior to show they can make their own decisions
Sexting might be the rebellious way to stand up for the right to be sexually active.
Celebs’ role models
Snapchat and Instagram queens are role models for teens. Herewith, celebs are far from being 18 or less. They just “launch” a trend of naked body selfies or photos.
What are legal outcomes of child sexting?
According to the USA legislation, by taking or sharing naked, half-naked or provocative photos or videos, teens might be accused of the participation in the child pornography. The House of Representatives has ratified the bill illegalizing “sexting” among teens. Sexters’ parents can go to jail with a 15-year mandatory.
In Australia, a person aged 18 or older who sends or receives sexually explicit multimedia files of another one under the age of 18 is accused of possessing child abuse material. This person will be automatically registered as a sex offender for a minimum of 8 years.
How can parents fight sexting?
To fight sexting parents, need to have a complex approach. It includes:
Raising personal awareness by accessing the relevant source of information and using parental controls.
The National Cyber Security Alliance in partnership with Microsoft conducted the survey «Keeping Up with Generation App: NCSA Parent/Teen Online Safety». It clearly shows the dynamics of American teens’ digital lives.
The Shame Nation platform is also insightful and educational for parents.
Parental controls help monitor the child’s online activity and find out if a teen is involved in sexting. These apps are well customized, so parents can pick the most convenient one (e.g. mSpy, ESET family, Kidgy).
Raise the kid’s awareness at home and at school
Dwell on the issue and discuss the consequences of sexting, including the possible legal responsibility for parents.
Make sure the issue is well covered at school. You may invite the Mobile Police officer (or a decent representative) to explain legal outcomes of such online behavior. Find out if an appropriate sex education is provided at school and if it complies with your family’s values.
Open dialogue, communication, and parents’ observation
The lack of self-respect and crisis of self-identity make kids search for the validation and acceptance outside the family. Teens grounded in their beauty and value won’t seek for other people’s opinions.
Thus, make sure your kid does not suffer from the lack of attention and communication within the family.
Know and convey your country’s laws about child sexting and child pornography.
The legal liability varies in different countries. However, it’s judged everywhere: with the law or by child rights organizations.
Make sure your kid is aware of crisis hotlines like Crisis Text Line.
If your kid does not open up to you, they can turn to professionals for a psychological assistance.
Sexting can threaten the family’s welfare, undermine its values and integrity. If you have a teen in the house, preventive measures are a must.
Guest Post by Ava Sage: E-safety expert and tech-life coach. Also, a mom of a teen daughter. That’s my first and the most important job. Love dwelling on tech, apps, Z-Generation, the Internet to fill the gap between generations, build the bridge, and help parents be fully involved in their kids’ “tech” or online life without overstepping or sort of “violating their rights”.