Smartphones are amazing devices which have opened up so many opportunities for people ages three to 100, unfortunately they have also brought their own challenges. One such challenge is the issue of teens and tweens sexting through apps.
We would like to think this is a phase, but the safe bet is that this type of behavior will never disappear. The good news is that there are ways to inform your kids about the dangers of sexting and hopefully they will make the smart decision to abstain from such actions.
First of all, it is important to understand that sexting will always continue to be a smartphone risk, and waging a war on it will just be a waste of time and resources. When a child receives a smartphone they are given more power than they know what to do with and unfortunately teenagers can be very persuasive (especially when hormones are involved).
While there are surely measures parents can take to keep track of what their kids are texting, sexting can occur through so many devices and apps that it's difficult to monitor. A mixture between raging hormones, at-hand technology, and the perception that this behavior is cool guarantees that sexting will remain as common place in our society as make out spots were in the 1950s.
Sexting Gone Viral
While sexting is likely impossible to stop completely, it is possible to inform kids about the negative repercussions of these types of actions. The first issue that needs to be brought to light is that it is not just the intended recipient that will most likely see the picture. Recipients of sexts have the ability to do anything they'd like with the pictures, and many times when sexts go viral they are leaked and circulated after something has gone wrong in a relationship.
What Parents Can Do
Share sexting-related news stories with teens. Keep them informed about the never ending news stories about celebrity phones being hacked and ask kids how they would feel if their pictures got that kind of attention. Sharing news stories that display the consequences of sexting and how harmful these situation can be might tangibly shed some light on the reality of sexting.
Inform teens about the legal consequences of sexting. If passing on sexting news stories isn't enough to scare kids straight, there is one more even scarier consequence that they need to be informed about. If a child is under the age of 18 it is illegal for them to have these kinds of pictures stored on their phones even if the person in the pictures is them.
Legal action is highly unlikely in this case but there is also the threat of predators getting ahold of these photos one way or another, which is not only scary but brings up a whole other set of legality issues. If a predator gets underage pictures from a child's phone, that child could be seen as a distributor of underage material.
Just like any other dangerous substance that teens experiment with, sexting will probably never go away. Hopefully, parents will start informing teens early on about the consequences of sexting and this will prevent it from hurting a higher percentage of kids. Teens and tweens get smarter every day partially because of the same smartphones that are causing these issues. Ideally, they will eventually figure out that sending racy pictures just isn't worth it. Until then it is up to parents to stay informed about kids' digital and texting activities.