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Warning: Sexting IS Sex. Parents, Take Action!

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Are you talking about sexting with your teen? If not, you need to. Now. The behavior is dangerous and has long-term consequences for your children. Do you know what your teen is up to? Don't be taken by surprise -- it's time to take the Momlogic Sexting Challenge.

teenage girl using her cellphone

Lori Getz: Thirteen-year-old Hope Witsell in Florida took her own life after a topless photo she had sent to a boy she liked was intercepted and circulated around the school. I spoke with several families after that incident made headlines, and I was SHOCKED at what I discovered. The overall consensus was that "these things happen to other families, my child would never do that!" And by "that," they were referring to sexting.

One mother told me her 15-year-old daughter had too much self-respect to participate in such an act. However, that same young girl had sent a naked video of herself to her boyfriend almost two years earlier that ended up on amateur pornography sites across the net. The mother had no idea that her daughter was living with the shame of that secret.

The fact is, 20% of teens have admitted to sending a nude photo of themselves to a significant other, and 70% of teens admit to being a part of a sexting incident (either as the sender or the recipient).

Sexting is the act of sending a nude or semi-nude photo or video via electronic communication (including cell phone, IM, or e-mail). Sexcasting is when you send live nude video via a webcam. Whatever you call it, it's a huge problem when it comes to teenagers.

The problem is two-fold:

Currently, when you produce, send, or receive images of nude minors, it's child pornography. Period. Just ask Philip Alpert, who is now a registered sex offender after forwarding a naked picture of his then 16-year-old girlfriend to dozens of her friends and family after an argument.

Recently, legal issues pertaining to minors producing and distributing child pornography of other minors are starting to change, including in the state of Indiana, where lawmakers are currently working on a bill that would separate sexting laws from child pornography laws. But there are other issues parents really need to consider.

Although not every child will become a registered sex offender after sexting, serious and long-lasting consequences still exist. Sexting means being sexually active, and our kids are "doing it" without being in control. When they sext, they are sharing their bodies with another person, and they have no control over who will see this image or where it might end up. Parents cannot emphasize this point enough.

They are engaging in an act that should be private and meaningful, not lascivious and available to the masses. We never teach our children to be out of control when they make the decision to be sexually active, but that's exactly what they are doing when they sext.

"I found out when his girlfriend's dad called me and threatened to call the police!" said the mother of a 13-year-old boy after he sent naked photos of himself to his girlfriend's cell phone.

"I found out when I received an anonymous e-mail calling my daughter a whore!" said the mother of a 14-year-old girl after a naked photo of her was being used to solicit sex in an adult chat room.

"I found out when the school counselor called and told me video of her was circulating on an amateur pornography site," said the mother of a 15-year-old girl who had sent a "private" video message to her boyfriend.

The behavior is dangerous and has unbelievable long-term consequences for your children. Do you know what your teen is up to? Don't be taken by surprise. It's time to take the Momlogic Sexting Challenge. Sit down with your teen and answer these questions together. You may find it spurs a conversation you never realized you should be having.

Sexting IS Sex

next: Control Your Damn Kid!
11 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris January 29, 2010, 4:49 AM

This is exactly why I won’t let me 14yr son have interent on his phone or why we don’t have a webcam on our computer. Even though I have spoken to my son about sexting many of times, I know that he doesn’t alway think before doing stupid things and he would be one who would end up with nude photos from girls on his phone. He doesn’t see what the big deal is about it and he’s like “well, if a girl wants to send me a picture, theres nothing I can do about it” and you know he’s actually right about that, you can’t controll other people so I’ve done what I can to try and avoid it from happening. I also have to say that the young girls today (12-15) are so aggressive. I read some of my sons text msg and these girls have talked about sex, oral sex and things that just make me shake my head and wonder why these girls feel they need to be so sexual so young but if you look at the shows that these kids watch (mtv) they show woman who will do anything to get the man. It really is a shame but that is how society is.

Sara January 29, 2010, 5:06 AM

Sexting is not sex. Sex is an activity that when done by a mature couple making mature decisions and protecting themselves is acceptable and pleasurable.

Sexting is porn. And creating porn can have a negative effect on all areas of a persons life and can follow them for years afterwords and pop up at anytime and ruin their lives. It’s not even in the same league as sex. It’s more akin to doing hard core drugs or stealing a car in the effect it can have on a childs life.

Just Me January 29, 2010, 9:50 AM

OK let me see, first of all we had teens actually having physical contact, the preg rates went up so we said if ya gonna do it, heres a condom (std’s too)…mhm so then now sexting has no physical contact at the moment which i can say is MORE effective than a condom and now people are still promoting condoms for physical contact but griping about non physical touching..I believe in abstenense but this is NOT sex, youre confusing our kids ok heres a condom if you do it you can goto a dr without parents knowing about it… but no “sexting” Oh my, what hyprocrites..

anothermom January 29, 2010, 10:47 AM

i know this article is about children sexting..just also wanted to shed some light on another topic of married people also doing this. There are married men and women sexting outside of their marriages..we have heard our friends talking about this and thinking they will not get caught. In which most of the time they dont…since they can delete the evidence. The sexting problem is so broad and damaging…hoping that someday there are some sort of regulations to help the problems for children..and also teach adults who are dabbling in it to escape the commitment of their marriage.

Courtney January 29, 2010, 4:41 PM

sexting is a big problem with teenagers whether they do it out of peer pressure or because they really want to. most teenagers feel guilty afterwards. and believe me, it is not worth the consequences.

ugh January 31, 2010, 6:56 PM

it should be legal for this, it is so different from child porn ugh i hate how everybody is so annoying about this!!!

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Betty February 2, 2010, 11:30 AM

Just Me,

You are comparing apples and oranges. Sex, whether using a condom or not, is not the same as a teenager’s nude body being passed around the internet or through cell phones. This picture/video will live long past when this teenager has become an adult. It is legal for adults to participate in pornography and they have to sign a statement that they are of legal age. These teens have no say-so in where their image turns up, who sees it, who masturbates to it.

And, in my opinion, anyone who does pass an image on that was sent directly to them from the teen her/him self thinking it would be kept just between the two of them, is guilty of participating in child pornography. These can end up on actual pornography sites.

These can come back to haunt a teenager, long after they become an adult.

So, there is nothing hypocritical about this, at all.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

Sandy February 8, 2010, 7:03 AM

I believe sexting should not be allowed-period, end of story. Parents have the power/option to block texting on children’s cell phones so why even discuss it? It’s wrong and there are consequences. What are parents thinking?
BLOCK TEXTING! Whatever happened to the power of speech & talking to our friends!

Karen February 8, 2010, 3:39 PM

To Sandy, and others naive enough to believe that merely blocking texting will make this problem go away. It won’t! Sexting involves many forms: on the cellphone, on the computer, on personal i-cams (video), on mac products, too. Blocking cellphone texting does not stop AIM and other instant messaging capabilities - from the phone, too! Internet connections are found many ways. We have to EDUCATE first. Parents need to learn new ways to help their teens grow up knowing how to SAFELY navigate the internet, cyber-chatting, cyber-videoing and all of the digital way kids connect these days. Facebook applications can be downloaded for free onto your teen’s phone - no extra “data” charge, and parents don’t know their kids are “on” 24/7. And please do not say that you are a “friend” of your teen on Facebook. Learn how Facebook privacy settings allow you to be a “friend” with someone and then specifically block that “friend” from seeing any updates/photos/videos, etc. We have gone way beyond texting. KNOW YOUR DIGITAL MEDIA. Be a parent and know more than your kids know before the tables are turned and you are too far behind - digitally!
- Karen
(Just a Parent in the Digital World)

tallchris February 16, 2010, 11:22 AM

My 16 year old son just got expelled from his beloved School of Rock for showing pornographic images to a a couple girls at a SOR concert as a “joke” . They were on his cellphone that he used the cellphone camera to take a picture of our computer. Previous to this, We had blocked internet/media downloads on his cellphone, and his computer has adult website blocks on it. I found out there are however proxy servers that teens use to get around the porn website blocks. We are blacking out his camera phone lens and limiting his internet use to just a few sites.

His text messaging is limited to a few hours in the evening and now we are requiring that he has to turn in his cellphone to us at night. I reviewed his recent text messages and found a sexually explicit text to a girl that he had sent. He thinks they are all funny. I read a recent survey of teens and almost 50% ages 13-19 are sexting like this.

Although I was devastated (as was he) about his expulsion from School of Rock, I am hoping that he will see it as a natural consequence for his poor choices and actions. Some commentators say that we need to teach our kids to use technology responsibly, but it is tough when we see them use it irresponsibly. We have put severe limits on his technology, and he always finds a way around it. He can use the school library for Facebook, email, chatting etc. and homework these days is so dependent on using the internet, so a total technology ban is not necessarily a solution. I am beginning to feel like a prison guard.

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