I'm at a little bit of a loss for words when it comes to the teen sexting phenomenon, and the statistics I see don't seem to give me a clear understanding of the issue.
Is sexting a socially accepted activity among kids, or is there a social stigma to it? Do 1 in 5 kids really do it? And is this more of a middle school or a high school issue?
After stumbling across the transcript of a 2009 teen focus group on sexting, I was even more convinced that even among kids there's not really a consensus.
Some said that sexting was no big deal because everyone was doing it. Some said that it was “slutty” or gross – one boy commented that he only dates “classy” girls now so he doesn't like girls who sext anymore. And another boy said he would never ask a girl to send him a sext because she would think he was a “pervert.”
So what do I glean from this conflicting information?
A kid's view of sexting depends on their circle of friends and where they're at in life, so you can't assume what they think about it. You just need to ask.
Starting a conversation about sexting can be a difficult thing to do. So watch for moments when such a conversation could arise organically. Has there been a sexting incident at your child's school or on the news lately? Are you shopping for a new cell phone for your child or drawing up a parent-child cell phone contract? These situations will help you to get a conversation about sexting kick-started.
Keep the lines of communication open afterward, because as kids grow and evolve their opinions and attitudes about sexting (and just about everything else) will, too. The best way to keep up on all the changes is to talk regularly with your child.