Sexting and kids- what parents need to know.
Sexting is the sending or receiving of sexually explicit images, video or messages via a mobile phone or the internet and it is more common than most parents think. Irish teenagers were found to be among the fourth highest in the EU for sexting with over 4.4% of boys and 1.6% of girls aged 11-16 engaging in the behaviour according to an international academic at this year’s Anti-Bullying Research Centre Conference. It is regarded to some adolescents as a normal part of growing up and very few teenagers realise the implications that sexting can bring into their lives.
Sexting isn’t sending a sexy posed selfie in most cases it is more vulgar including nude or nearly nude pictures been sent along with sex acts been simulated on video or texts that propose sexual activities or discuss sex. While it is easy to place blame on the person sexting many teenagers have admitted they have sexted to be accepted into a clique/gang and to gain attention from a possible love interest. The hope is by way of sexting that you will gain popularity and be part of the cool club when sexting is anything but.
As sexting is predominately a new thing and not something parents would be educated about it is happening under parent’s noses without most ever becoming aware of the problem or at least until it is too late. While sex education is discussed in schools they stop short of covering the wide range of other issues that face youths today including internet safety, sexual consent and of course sexting. As a result of this sexting is only discovered when the picture or video goes viral around the school and when teachers or officials become aware and therefore let the parents know the situation their child now faces. (Remember this one?)
Everything is fun and games until a teenager compromising picture is sent to an array of people and that is when the bullying begins causing a huge amount of pain and anguish to your child. Before you may face this issue it probably is best to have a chat with your teenager once they hit an age where you think they will be influenced right or wrongly by others. Remind your child that a picture or message has a digital footprint and is never truly anonymous as it can be shared again and again very easily. While sexting may be a one-off occurrence or done on impulse the actions can have massive repercussions for your teenager.
Teach your child about online safety, and remind them that their freedom is based on their ability to do the right thing and not make errors which may cause upset. A teenager needs to know there are boundaries and limits to what they can and can’t do for their own sake if anything. A good one to remember is the WWGT rule which means What Would Grandma Think before pressing send to anyone. Is it something acceptable and will it not cause offence?
These little reminders along with supervising your child’s online activities are a good way in ensuring your teenager avoids falling into the sexting trap. One that will follow them around for the rest of their teenager years as cyber space is a big place and nothing ever stays secret for long.