Parents across the country simply want to pretend it isn’t happening. It’s way too scary to think about, and so uncomfortable to address honestly with teens. Plus… your teen probably isn’t doing it, right? The unfortunate reality is that sexting is everywhere, and it seems to be here to stay. Kids as young as elementary school age are being introduced to the world of sexting and as parents of teens it is absolutely vital that you understand sexting, it’s risks, and how to talk to your teen about it in a healthy way.
Sexting can include anything from provocative written messages to images to videos. Sexting is both solicited and unsolicited. It can be between girls and boys, girls and girls, and boys and boys. Your teen may experience it on their cell phones, iPods, iPads, computers, and even at school. Sexually charged messages come in all forms and levels of severity, and often it can look completely harmless or innocent from the outside.
There are several dangers that come from sexting during the teen years. The most common is increased sexual promiscuity, which can lead to STDs and teen pregnancy. More extreme is charges of child pornography or sexual harassment if photos or sexts are used without consent or passed along. Finally, a major concern for parents everywhere is the prevalence of growing pornography addiction in teens. Teens with pornography addictions suffer mentally, socially, and even physically (check out this infographic from help Your Teen Now for more information about teenage pornography addiction).
5 Mobile Sexting Apps
One way to tackle the sexting problem is to be well-informed about what sexting looks like for teens today. These 5 apps are commonly used for sexting, although not exclusively. Be aware of these apps and be prepared to talk to your teen about using them.
- Snapchat – You’ve probably heard of this one. Snapchat is the most popular and widespread app amongst teens. Take and send photos that disappear after a set amount of time! Many teens think this is a guilt-free way to send explicit pictures, but unfortunately there is no guarantee that the images won’t be saved.
- Kik Messenger – Kik allows anonymous, unlimited messaging from phones or iPods/iPads. It is possible to send pictures, videos, and pornographic links within the app, and communication with strangers is easy.
- Burnnote – This is snapchat for text. Essentially teens can pass notes that will self-delete after a period of time. This can lead to harassment and sexually explicit messages that teens feel aren’t lasting.
- Ask.fm – This social site allows you to ask and answer questions anonymously, and the content can be sexual in nature. There have been many high profile cases of sexual harassment and bullying linked to this website, as well.
- Omegle – A particularly scary app, this is the modern version of the chat room. Chat rooms are anonymous and open to any topic, meaning they are full of drug content, violence, and sexual conversations. Sexual predators have been caught using this site, making it especially dangerous.
What You Can Do
The most important thing you can do as a parent is to resist turning a blind eye. You may feel paranoid or overbearing when you ask them why they’re texting so much or which apps they’re using, but it’s important to communicate and show care and interest. Monitor their phone and computer use, even if it’s unpopular. Explain to your teen what sexting is, can lead to, and what the consequences may be – since they usually haven’t thought that far ahead. (These tips and more are from the article 5 Ways to Prevent Teens from Sexting.) Do your best to educate yourself and communicate with your teen openly about the dangers of sexting, because it can affect their lives and your entire family. If you believe the issue has developed out of control and you’re not sure what to do – there is help. Don’t give up.
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