A recent momlogic survey uncovered some interesting yet not surprising results: Teens are sexting, and parents didn't have a clue.
Lori Getz: The results are astounding! A full 44% of teens said they have been involved in a sexting incident (either as the sender or the recipient of the image). However, less than a quarter of their parents knew about the situation prior to taking the momlogic challenge!
The majority of teens surveyed believe that sexting is just part of being a teenager. One teen (in a separate interview) went so far as to call it a "rite of passage." Overall, teens do not see sexting as a big deal or as having long-term consequences.
Of those teens who admitted to sexting, only 38 percent reported knowing that sexting could lead to becoming a registered sex offenders, and only 1 in 5 teens believe that sexting is being sexually active!
"It's pretty far-fetched," said a 15-year-old boy who admitted to sexting. "Not every teen who sexts becomes a registered sex offender."
This is the attitude I see often when talking to teens. They've heard the stories but haven't seen the consequences firsthand. What they are missing is that even if the legal consequences seem far-fetched, there are other consequences that are more prevalent: emotional consequences, consequences of longevity and even sexual abuse.
Sexting is being sexually active! You are sharing your body with another individual. However, when you sext, you have no control over who ultimately you are sharing your body with. These images can be circulated and ultimately end up all over the 'net. "Although sexual abuse in the eyes of the law requires a physical interaction, as a therapist, I see things differently," said a therapist who specializes in treating rape victims and other sexually assaulted teens. "Children can be sexually abused by someone who manipulates them into performing sex acts on camera or sending sexually explicit photos to gratify the individual at the other end. They can also feel abused when a balance of power shifts and they are no longer control of their own sexual destiny. In cases where sexting is concerned, the victim gave up power when they sent the image and now the recipient of the image is exploiting that power. This can be devastating to the victims' self-esteem and ability to trust!"
Several studies, including a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, has cited a correlation between parents talking to their children about being sexually active and a teen's sexual behavior (even the delay of becoming sexually active). Over and over again, we see where communication between parents and teens is vital to the decision-making process for our young people. (Just because they are rolling their eyes doesn't mean they don't hear us.) So it's time to start talking about sexting, too!
Parents have reported not talking about sexting for several reasons, such as: they don't know what it is, they don't believe their child would participate in such an act, and they don't know how to start the conversation.
So now that we know what it is and that many teens ARE in fact participating ... it's time to talk about how to start the conversation:
Don't make it a BIG talk! Teenagers can smell a lecture from a mile away.
TV, movies, radio and the Internet give us plenty of opportunities to talk about sex and sexuality. Pick up on what a celebrity has done recently and start there. Talking about someone else's behavior is often a segue to a bigger conversation. Ask your child how they feel about it and really LISTEN. You can incorporate sexting by reminding your child that sexting is also part of being sexually active, and discuss the lack of control issue associated with it.
When you get them new technology, talk about it. Explaining how the new technology (including a webcam or cell phone that takes pictures or video) is to be used appropriately is a great time to talk about sexting.
When/if you find out your child has sexted, instead of berating them, ask them why! What brought them to making this decision? Sometimes teenagers are manipulated into sexting. Sometimes it's just a terrible decision! Ask questions first and get the whole story before deciding how to proceed. Your child may be a victim in the situation and if you yell first, they are not going to be as likely to come to you for help again.
|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.|