“Sexting” is a term that refers to texting sexual images and messages. The majority of teens have been exposed to it.

  • 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen guys who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content say they have sent/posted this content to a boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • 21% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have sent such content to someone they wanted to date or hook up with.
  • 38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or emails — originally meant for someone else — shared with them.
  • 25% of teen girls and 33% of teen boys say they have had nude or semi-nude images — originally meant for someone else — shared with them.

Five things parents should explain to their teens about “sexting”:

  1. Don’t cave into peer pressure. Sexting can be like any other peer pressure. A boy wants a sexy picture, and you’re afraid if you don’t send one, he won’t be interested. Or, a girl is desperate for a boy’s attention and initiates contact by sending a picture or suggestive message. The problem is sexting, like any other sexual activity, is something intimate. If you wouldn’t go to school naked, why would you send a picture that the whole school may end up seeing when the image is posted to Facebook by an unscrupulous “friend”.
  2. It’s a form of sexual harassment. Sexting can be considered a form of sexual harassment and with most schools adopting no-tolerance policies, it could land you in more trouble than it’s worth. Worse than that, a number of laws have been passed to make possessing, sending and taking pictures a form of child pornography — being required to register as a sex offender is a possible consequence.
  3. Your photo or message will likely be forwarded, shared and posted. No matter how private you intend the message or image to be, it’s probably going to be forwarded, shred or posted. Even the best intentions fall flat when a fight or breakup happens.
  4. It’s okay to say “no”. Not only can you say ‘no’ to taking and sending pictures of yourself, but you can help protect others by not participating in forwards and posts that others send.
  5. There are other ways to express interest in someone. Accidents can and do happen in the process of sending a risque message or picture. It can accidentally be sent to someone unintended, causing a lot of embarrassment. But even if you do only send it to one person, you have no control over whom that person forwards it to. You can find other ways to express your interest and desire for someone other than sending a permanent digital record into cyber space (such as going on dates, sending flowers or writing a letter).

“Sexting”, like any other sexual experimentation, probably starts as innocent curiosity, not much different than the “show me yours and I’ll show you mine” that many people experience as kids. But the show me yours/mine scenario is limited to the moment. Once a digital image is made and hits cyberspace, it can get out of control.