No parent really wants to think about their teens having thoughts related to sex. Most of us simply want to pretend that it isn’t happening. It’s entirely too scary to consider, and in truth, it can be uncomfortable to have an honest conversation with your teen. Plus, surely your teen isn’t sexting or thinking about sex. Right?
The unfortunate reality is that sexting is not just for adults. It’s a serious concern that some parents see in children as young as elementary school age. These children are being introduced to the wide world of sexting and often everything that comes with it. As a parent, you must understand everything there is to know about sexting, the risks it brings with it, and how to talk to your teen healthily.
It can also be helpful to be aware of some of the most popular mobile apps that are elevating the sexting game. In often alarming ways.
What is sexting?
How much do you know about sexting? In short: sexting can include provocative written messages, images, and videos. Sexting could be both solicited and unsolicited. It can be between girls and boys, girls and girls, and boys and boys. Your teen may be engaging in sexting through their smartphone, tablet device, or laptop.
The sexually charged messages can take on a number of forms and levels of severity. Your teen may be getting and exchanging messages through an app, texting, social media, and other sites parents aren’t aware of.
The messages can often look completely harmless or innocent from an outsider’s perspective. Teens may also develop a code so that anyone else reading the messages would be completely clueless.
Is sexting dangerous?
At the surface level, sexting may not seem like it has the potential to be dangerous. It’s just teens being teens, right? In reality, there are several potential dangers that can come from sexting during the teen years.
Perhaps the most common concern for parents to be aware of is that there is the potential for increased sexual activity and promiscuity. This can, of course, lead to teen pregnancy and an increased risk of STDs.
On the more extreme side, there is the very real risk of sexual harassment and predatory behaviors from older users of the websites and apps that teens are using to sext. The photos and sext conversations teens exchange with those they trust may be shared and passed to others. Not only is this humiliating for a teenager, but it can open other teens up to charges of child pornography, which can bring along serious legal consequences, even for a teenager.
Another serious concern for parents to be aware of is that there are growing instances of pornography addiction in teens. Teens may display signs of addiction similar to what you’d see if he was addicted to drugs or alcohol. Teens who struggle with pornography addictions will see an impact in many areas of their lives, including mentally and socially.
To learn more about teenage pornography addiction take a look at this helpful infographic from HelpYourTeenNow.
6 Mobile Sexting Apps
One of the ways that parents can tackle sexting issues is to be well-informed about what sexting may look like for today’s teens. There are countless apps that teens may use, with social media apps being some of the biggest culprits.
These six apps are popular for sexting. Be aware of the apps and be prepared to talk to your teen about using them. The most popular apps may change over time, so it’s a good idea to do a bit of research every few months to stay on top of things.
1. Snapchat – For some time, Snapchat has continued to be one of the most popular and widespread apps amongst teens. Teens can take and send photos that disappear after a set amount of time. Teens may think this is a safer way to send explicit pictures. Unfortunately, the images can be saved and used against them.
2. Dust – Much like Snapchat, Dust enables users to erase their messages from other people’s devices. Touted for its privacy and encryption, this app is a popular one.
3. Wickr Me – This app keeps only minimal logs, which is appealing for those looking for privacy in communications. It allows users to connect through voice memos and voice calls. They can also easily share files, photos, and videos.
4. Kik Messenger – Kik allows anonymous, unlimited messaging using smart devices. Users can send photos, videos, and links to questionable content within the app. Communication with strangers is accessible and unmonitored.
5. Ask.fm – A social networking site, Ask.fm allows users to ask and answer questions anonymously. The content can be sexual in nature. There have been many high-profile sexual harassment and bullying cases linked to this website since it launched.
6. Omegle – With an unsettling reputation, this app offers anonymous chat rooms open to any topic. This means they can contain drug content, violence, and sexual conversations. Sexual predators have been caught using this site, making it especially dangerous.
What can parents do?
Perhaps the most important thing you can do as a parent is to resist turning a blind eye to what your teen is getting up to. You may feel like you’re being overbearing or intrusive when you ask them why they’re texting so much or if you ask them which apps they’re using. Keep in mind that it’s essential to communicate with your teen. Beyond that, showing interest and demonstrating that you care can help to reinforce the relationship that you have with your teen.
Explain to your teen what sexting is, what it can lead to, and what the consequences may be. Teens rarely think that far ahead when it comes to potentially troublesome issues. Keeping their right to a level of privacy in mind, you could monitor the apps they install onto their devices, even if this does cause a bit of friction between you.
Read up more about sexting and share it with your teen. Some helpful tips can be found at 5 Ways to Prevent Teens from Sexting. Take the time to educate yourself and communicate with your teen openly about the dangers of sexting. The more your teen is aware of the risks, the less likely he’ll be to engage in these dangerous behaviors.
Parents can struggle to figure out the next step and the best way to help their teens. HelpYourTeenNow can help connect parents with the resources they need to get their teens back onto the right track. Whether your teen is struggling with mental health, bullying, addiction to drugs or alcohol, or even a pornography addiction, there is a treatment option to help.