To many parents, the statistics are alarming –
According to The Center for Innovative Public Health Research (CIPHR), 7 percent of the 3,700 teens surveyed report sexting – that is viewing sexually explicit messages, pictures, or videos that appear on cell phones or Tablets PCs.
A CIPHR poll also revealed that of those who engaged in sexting 46 percent reported sexting someone their own age, while 41 percent reported sexting someone older.
Of those who engaged in sexting with someone older, 79 percent reported sexting with someone within four years of their own age, while 69 percent of teens reported sexting online with someone they knew offline.
According to Dr. Elizabeth L. Jeglic, Ph.D., there are very real risks to kids to sext. Among them are those from sexual predators who sometimes send sexting messages to youngsters in order to gain their trust, to encourage an exchange of inappropriate images such as those containing partial nudity, or to solicit a face-to-face meeting either online or via text messaging.
Whatever the circumstances, sexting carries serious emotional and psychological ramifications, according to Jeglic.
Here are some of them –
Criminal child pornography charges –
Kids who send photos and kids who receive them may be both be charged.
In some states, kids who send photos could face distributing child pornography charges, while those who receive the photos may be charged with receiving child pornography whether they requested the photo or not.
Also, those who share inappropriate photos with others any also face charges for distributing child pornography.
Sex offender designation
Those convicted of child pornography crimes may also be required under the law to register as a sex offender.
Consequences for parents, too
Parents who know that their kids are engaging in sexting and who do nothing to stop it, may be charges tie contributing the delinquency of a minor.
In addition, the parents may face a lawsuit if the parents of the victim choose to sue civilly.
The best way to avoid legal exposure connected to sexting, is for parents to prevent their kids from becoming vulnerable to sexting in the first place.
Here’s what Jeglic recommends –
- Before your child has access to a phone, discuss the dangers of sexting with your children/teens. The younger you start the conversation the more likely it will be that your child internalizes your values.
- Talk to your teen about feeling pressure to send naked pictures and empathize with them, but then remind them that no matter how hard it is to stand up to pressure, it is much harder to deal with the fallout of having a naked picture shared without consent.
- Teach your children to immediately delete any nude or partially nude pictures they receive and report it to a parent.
- Use hypothetical situations or media stories to role-play various sexting scenarios with your teen and how they would handle them. Use these types of exercises to teach problem-solving and critical thinking skills around these issues.
- Establish ground rules for cell phone usage with your teens. Many parents require that teens let them check their phones regularly as part of a condition of use. If teens are violating the rules, then phone privileges should be suspended.