Teens sometimes have a tendency to do irrational things, including some behaviors which may be deemed inappropriate. This includes teen sexting, which can have a variety of different consequences associated with this action. Teens need to understand that they may face consequences for sexting, including criminal and social. As a parent, you need to learn some Consequences of Sexting for your teens.
Why do some teens choose to send sexts to others? For some they feel it is their way to show affection. Others, it might be a way to feel adventurous. Then you have a few who have been bullied and/or coerced to send a sext message by someone looking to use the images against him or her.
What is sexting?
Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages to another person via a cell phone or instant messenger. Because of the latest in technology advancements, sexting teens has been on the rise, causing many parents to worry about their children. With phone having the capability to take and send photos and/or videos, it is easier for teens to send these sexually explicit images to boyfriends, friends and others.
In addition to sending text messages from one phone to another, there are a few other ways a teen could send sexually explicit materials. Other forms of sexting include sending photos and/or videos via computer, webcam or other piece of technology. It also includes leaving sexually explicit voicemails and other non-visual messages.
Because of cell phones and tablets, these photos, messages and images can easily be shared with others. Unfortunately, those images do not always stay private.
Problems with sexting
Back in the day, young couples exchanged letters and passed notes that were sexually suggestive and often explicit. Teens today have just decided to put technology to work for them. However, what they do not realize is that an innocent photo shared between boyfriend and girlfriend can quickly become a viral affair. Once an image is out there via online sexting it leaves a permanent digital footprint and cannot be taken back.
Unfortunately, there are consequences of sexting. Currently, it is illegal under federal law to sext. This act of sending instant messages falls under the creation, distribution and possession of child pornography, which is a felony offense. Both those taking and receiving the sexts can be charged.
What can parents do?
Parents need to handle sexting teens in a gentle, non-judgmental and informative manner. It is important to keep the dialog open, allowing for your teen to feel comfortable and willing to talk with you. Here are some tips to help parents break the ice when it comes to talking about sexting with their teens:
- Ask if the teen has heard about sexting and if he or she knows anything about it
- Mention a story you heard on the news or in a television show and ask if he or she heard about it
- Ask to discuss the different things he or she shares with friends online
- Suggest to know what is being shared online as a means of looking out for your teen’s friends
- Try not to lead the conversation and let the teen do the talking
According to a study conducted by Drexel University, sexting is more prevalent than previously thought. Many of the respondents were unaware of the variety of consequences associated with sexting among the youth and more than 50 percent said they had previously exchanged sexually explicit texts. Of those texts, 28 percent were sent with images when they were minors.
Here are some of the results participants gave during an online survey at this northeastern university:
- 61 percent were unaware that their actions could be considered child pornography
- 59 percent said that if they were aware of the consequences they may not have sent the messages
- 71 percent reported knowing others who experienced negative sexting consequences
- Only two percent of participants responded that they notified a parent or teacher about receiving sexts
Sext statistics from DoSomething.org include:
- There are very few reasons why teen girls text, 40 percent do it as a joke, 34 percent because they feel sexy and 12 percent stated that they were pressured into doing it
- 17 percent of sexters share with others the messages they receive
- Of those, 55 percent stated that they have shared these messages with more than one person
- 61 percent of those who have participated in sexting online, including sending naked photos of themselves to another party stated they felt pressured to do it
- Close to 40 percent of all teenagers have admitted to sending or posting sexually suggestive messages
- Boys are more likely to send these suggestive messages
- 22 percent of girls have reported that they have sent semi-nude or nude photos, while only 18 percent of boys in the same age group have
- 15 percent of those who have sent messages have sent them to people they never met
Legal consequences of sexting
Many states do not have specific laws regarding sexting and there is no federal law that specifically talks about sexting legislation, which is why these acts can be considered felonies under federal law. As defined by the U.S. court system, sexting is “an act of sending sexually explicit materials through mobile phones.” These messages can be photo, video or simple text messages.
According to the Illinois State Bar Association, adults only face embarrassment if their sext message is exposed and misdirected. However, if a teenager (a child under the age of 18) creates, sends and/or receives sext messages in Illinois, they could face child pornography charges. If convicted, the teen will have the label of “sexual offender” follow him or her around for the rest of their lives.
Many of the other states have similar laws, meaning teens are at risk of having a criminal record for sending even just one text message.
There are currently eight states with bills in place to protect minors from sexing and another 14 states have proposed bills to their legislation. But we still have to show teens the consequences of their sexting actions. Because until minors are protected, they could still face being charged with a felony.
Other consequences of sexting
Even though the legal consequences should be scary enough, there are many other consequences teens need to be aware to help protect them from their own actions. Other consequences of sexting include:
- Public humiliation
- Low self-image
- Low self-esteem
- Social isolation
- Expulsion from school
- Trouble getting a job in the future
- Difficulty getting a scholarship or accepted into college
- Trouble in future relationships
- Being bullied
- Being harassed
- Punishment from parents
- Being kicked off school sports teams
- Being ask to leave school groups
- Retaliation from an ex-boyfriend after a bad breakup
- Sextortion – meaning the teen could be threatened to give money, conduct sexual acts or any other act in order to keep the sext images from being distributed or shown to friends and family
- Could become victim of physical abuse, including sexual abuse by those he or she knows and in some cases, does not know
- Could become a repeated victim of date rape
Sexting has become a hot topic in today’s society as many more teens are being caught and prosecuted for felonies. As a teenager, chances are theses sexually explicit messages re not being created and sent as a means of participating in criminal activity. For most, the act of sexting is, in their eyes, innocent communication with their boyfriend. However, little do they know that their messages are not always kept private.
This is why it is very important we stress to teens the consequences associated with sexting and how it could affect their future. Teens caught sexting could face criminal charges, time in jail, heavy fines and could have their future ruined by a sexually explicit photo going viral on the Internet. Teach teens now so they do not fall victim of their own actions.