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.
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.
|Lori Getz is the founder of Cyber Education Consultants and speaks to students, parents and educators about Internet safety, security and ethics. She has a Master of Arts in Educational Technology from San Diego State University and is certified by isafe.org as an Internet Safety Specialist. Her mission is to help bridge the gap between a young generation of digital natives and their parents and teachers. She is the mother of one and lives in Los Angeles with her husband.|