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Facts & Consequences of Sexting Parents should know about

Sexting is the act of sharing sexual, naked or semi nude images and videos. It also includes sending sexually explicit text messages.

Facts about sexting

Sexting is more common that you think. Did you know that 20% of middle schoolers reported having received sexually  explicit messages? Here are some other facts about sexting:

Why do children sext :

A focus group conducted by Pew Research Center, found that teen sext due to the following reasons :

  • Teen may see sexting as the first step to becoming sexually active 
  • It is commonly done in a romantic relationship 
  • Many teen see this is as a good way to tell someone that they are interested in them 

Other reasons for sexting:

  • Everyone else is doing it
  • To boost self-esteem
  • The need for instant gratification
  • Exploring their sexuality and feelings
  • Finding attention from someone else or gain popularity on social media 
  • It is becoming the normal way of flirting among teens. 

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Why is sexting illegal?

In the UK sharing and taking nude images of anyone below the age of 18 years old is illegal, even if the person taking the pictures  is the victim herself. Your child will be breaking the law if they :

  • Take a nude photo or video of themselves or a friend and shares it with others
  • Share an explicit image or video of anyone below the age of 18 including their own images.
  • Download  or store an image of a child, even if they have the permission to do so.

In the US revenge porn is illegal in 34 states. The District of Columbia are working on legislation to criminalise the act. Offenders can get up to seven years in jail.

 

Emotional Consequences of sexting :

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Bullying

If your child have been caught sexting they can be ridiculed by their friends in school. Many times it continues after a screenshot of the images are distributed. Pictures can also resurface many years after it has been shared.

Revenge porn 

Revenge porn is sexting gone wrong. Imagine your teenage daughter has a boyfriend in school. The two of them started dating and your daughter starts sending nude images of herself to her new boyfriend.

Weeks, or years in the future when the relationship ends badly and they break up, her boyfriend out of anger might want to hurt her. The easiest way to do this is to share those intimate photos to a group of friends. Even worst on social media and the internet. This is revenge porn and it can have a devastating consequences on your child.

Risk of being blackmailed

Your child might send a nude photo impulsively to someone they meet online. They can face the threat of being blackmailed later on.

There have been cases where children are being threatened to being publicly shamed if they do not send more explicit images.  Many teens who face this kind of threat would give in to the blackmailers demand.

They may be too embarrassed to ask for help and be at the mercy of the blackmailed for a long time/

Sext never disappears

Your child might trust the other person whom they are sending the images too. But they fail to realise that once an image is sent the sender has no control on how it is being stored or distributed.

When an image is shared on the internet, it can never be erased. Deleting something you post on the internet does not equal to completely removing it. Even pictures on Instagram story or Snapchat can be saved.

Someone else might take a print screen of the photos and download it on their computer. The photos can be distributed on porn sites and might even appear on Google Images if someone searches for your child’s name.

Emotional distress and suicide 

Sexting can have a negative psychological effects on your child. Especially when they have been forced to share an explicit image or video of themselves and feel ashamed of the act.

The embarrassment of having their pictures circulated can lead to something serious and tragic.

Jessica Logan and Amanda Todd are two girls involved in sexting that ended tragically. They were bullied online and in person. They were ostracised by their school friends and ultimately they took their own lives.

Ruined social reputation

Your child’s social reputation is particularly important for them in their tween and teens years. Sexting can damage their reputation and your child might completely withdraw themselves and hide from the situation,

Even worst, if a child is convicted of crimes involving sexting, it may affect many aspects of their lives. For instance, it may come up on their college application  record and even future employment.

The reputation of the victim especially may be exposed on social media. It is a well known fact that universities and employers looks through a prospect social media and Google searches before offering them a position. Appearing on Google for a sexting related incident is not desirable for life after high school.

 

Legal consequences of sexting : 

 

Can a teenager go to jail for sexting?

There are legal consequences with taking, sending and forwarding nude images of anyone below the age of 18 years old. Both children who send the photos and receive explicit images can be slapped with child pornography.

Even if your tween did not request for a nude selfie of their boyfriend to be sent, they may still be charged for possessing indecent pictures.

If they share the selfie to their friends then they can also be charged with child pornography.

If your child receive a nude or sexually-suggestive pictures, they should delate it right away.

Registered as a sex offender

Teens that sext run the risk of having registered as a sex offender. This can be huge burden and stigma attached to them and it can follow them for the rest of their lives.

Can you (parents) go to jail for sexting?

In the US if parents are aware that their child is sexting and does nothing about it, they can be subject to a civil suit if the victim’s parents choose to sue.

The aim is to show that you as parents have done everything you can to end sexting once you discover your child is doing it.

 

How to talk to your child about sexting

If your child is becoming sexually curious and already has a smartphone then now is the time to talk to them about being a responsible digital citizen.

Giving your child the information might help them think twice before they act; she might even talk to you if she has ever felt pressured to sext.

Do keep in mind that every child is different in their maturity level. Hence your approach should be based on their character and the relationship you have with them. Here are few tips to get started :

  • Talk to your child about the consequences of sexting and rules around using a mobile phone
  • Let them know that they should be brave to say ‘no’ for such request, regardless who it may come from. Whether it is a trusted friend or a boyfriend.
  • Explain to your child about consent in a relationship. They should not feel pressured to do something they are not comfortable with.
  • Ensure that your child can speak to you if this ever happens to them.

What to do if your child receive unwanted sext :

  • Tell your child to inform the sender that she does not want to receive images like this. For instance, your teen can say ” Don’t send me this stuff, my parents checks my messages.” 
  • Confront the person face to face
  • If your child feels threatened then block the person from all contact list and social media accounts . 
  • Go to your law enforcement agency if the sender does not stop sending explicit images. keep copies of all the images as evidence. 
  • If the sender is a friend from school then report it to your child’s school teacher.
  • If your child is sexting then talk to your telephone provider if they have a program to prevent your child from sexting. 

 

Here are other tips to you keep children safe in the digital age : 

Tips for Non-Tech Savy Mums :4 tips to digital parenting for non-tech savy mums

Stop kids from being datafied : Are your children datafied from birth

3 dangerous places for children to be online : 3 places kids should have limited internet access

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