Sexting Scandals, Sluts Pages, Nudes: What Teens Face Today
Does your teen know the risks of sending or receiving sexual content?
There’s no denying it, sex is no longer limited to physical contact thanks to technology, sexting has become a new normal for many.
Sexting might be considered the new form of flirting, but that doesn’t mean a sext isn’t going to get you in trouble if your recipient decides to use it for unsavory purposes.
In a recent report in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, sexting is becoming more common among young people. According to this study, nearly 15 percent of teens have sent a sext message while 27 percent have received one.
This research also shared that older teens are more likely to engage in sexting and about 8 percent had their private sexual content forwarded without their consent.
Nudes and slut pages
Everything is permanent online. If someone asks you for a nude, no matter what age you are, be prepared for the potential consequences.
Just because it’s frequently done doesn’t mean it won’t land you in serious digital consequences. Slut pages aren’t only a child’s playground. In 2017, it was exposed that some U.S. Marines were involved in creating social media pages full of non-consensual shared nudes of their colleagues.
Sexting isn’t just common among swinging singles and digital natives. One study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking found that 12 percent of married couples admitted to sending nude or nearly nude photos to each other. However, with the divorce rate of first marriages at forty percent and of second marriages at sixty percent, the impulse to get even with your spouse has taken a new, evil turn.
Another study found that 4 percent of online Americans, or 10 million men and women, reported either being threatened with revenge porn or actually victimized. If you’re considering taking or sending a nude, make sure you are aware of the risks and ready to deal with the potential consequences. What could the impact be on your future relationships? Employment? Career?
If adults are behaving this way and they’re supposed to be the role-models, what example does this give our children?
Statistics show that 20 percent of teens and 33 percent of young adults have posted or sent nude or semi-nude photos, which can be a pathway to an embarrassing ending—witness the sexting scandals that have popped up in small towns across America, from Duxbury, Massachusetts, to Cañon City, Colorado.
Risks and consequences
There are sexting laws across the country depending on what state you reside in. It’s important not only for you to understand these laws, but to have frequent discussions with your children about them. Start these chats early, in the JAMA report it points to sexting starting in the tween years.
Revenge porn and sextortion is no joke. What may have started out as sending flirtatious messages, could end in malicious e-venge. With sextortion, you may not even know the person. To date, 38 states plus D.C.have revenge porn laws. If you become a victim, tell someone immediately. Cyber Civil Rights Initiative offers a free Online Removal Guide.
Everyone does it
Most young people are naive to believe that sending sexual content is the norm, maybe it will land them a friend — everyone is doing it — and bad things won’t happen to them.
Know that everything you put out there has the possibility of becoming “Public and Permanent®,” an expression perfectly coined by Richard Guerry, founder of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication. “Far too many people with technology are not stopping to think about the long-term repercussions of their actions,” he says. Guerry advocates for digital consciousness—always posting with the awareness that anything you’ve documented could be disseminated.
“There is no way to control what is going to happen, none,” he says. “Digital tools were never designed for privacy. We’re going against the grain for what these tools were intended. By no means is everything going to be Public and Permanent®, but you have to be prepared. Think about your legacy. It’s not just imagining [that] your ninety-year-old grandma will see your naughty text—but [that] your own grandkids will too.”
Even with the strictest privacy settings, we don’t have control over human behavior, technology glitches, or cyber-criminals. Maybe your teen leaves their phone behind on the bus or it gets picked up in the locker room. Their best friend today (and usually teens will share passwords) can be their foe tomorrow.
Your teen may always be an app ahead of you or more cyber-savvy than you, but they will always need your parenting wisdom. Never allow technology to get in the way of conversations offline about online life.
The sext chat outline for parents to open the dialogue:
- Talk about it.Frequently and start early. Stress the importance of safe sharing online. When your kids hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults. Revenge porn is rising every day. It can happen to anyone at any age.
- Make it real.Kids don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world. Comments and photos are not retrievable.
- Address peer pressure. Give your kids a way out – blame it on us. Tell them to let their friends know that their parents monitor (and/or spot check) their phones and social media, and you can’t risk losing your devices.
- Discuss legal and online consequences. Depending on your state, there can be legal ramificationswhen you send sexual content or even participate in forwarding it. What goes online – stays online. This is your digital landscape.
- If you receive a sexual message, never engage in it or forward it. Tell your parent or trusted adult immediately. If necessary, contact the authorities or your school.
- Know that your parent is only a call away.Let your child know they can always come to you without judgment. These conversations are about building trust — our kids may always be an “app” ahead of us, but we will always be the adult in the family – lead by example and be there for them.
Has your teen been a victim of sextortion or revenge porn? Maybe involved in a sexting scandal? Know there is help and resources available: