Teens love their phones so much that they are rarely without them. They connect with people all around the world, sharing personal insights, information, photos, and more. Caught up in the moment, they often make choices that aren’t smart and can have long lasting consequences. Sexting is one way in which an impulsive decision can changes their lives today and for years to come.
“Everyone sends sext messages.” Teens tell each other that it’s not a big deal but they’re wrong. Kids give in to peer pressure or participate because they think it’s funny. What they don’t see is that sexting can carry serious consequences.
Research Shows Consequences
Drexel University published a report stating as many as 50 percent of all teens engage in sexting before age 18. The study also shows that most teens are unaware of the legal consequences of underage sexting. Parents must educate their kids on the risks and the following consequences.
Sexts are Forever
Teens love Snapchat. They post pictures and know that they will be gone in a matter of seconds, so what’s the harm? Teens operate social media channels better than the tech savvy experts that created them. They have learned to save and store images, regardless of where they are posted. Servers store everything that is posted on the Internet. The images can come back to haunt your teen, preventing them from getting into a good school, landing a good job, or running for office. Messages sent via text can also be retrieved, even if the number is blocked on your iPhone.
Sexting is Child Pornography
People posting nude or compromising pictures that involve a minor are guilty of child pornography in many parts of the country. Sharing the pics is considered a felony, even if the minor has agreed. People receiving the photo can also be charged. Any of the people involved, even those underage, may also be considered to be a sex offender and would have to register with the sex offenders’ registry. A recent study showed that 61 percent of teens said if they had known the facts, they probably wouldn’t have sent the photos.
Ruining a Reputation
People use photographs in many ways. The teen loses control over the image once it is sent. The photo can be used to embarrass the teen, suggesting that he or she is an easy mark for sexual conquests, i.e. “slut shaming.” Teens manipulate photos to create memes, write mean comments, and more. “Frenemies” may blackmail the teen in the photo and, too embarrassed to tell, the teen will give into demands to retain privacy.
Invitation to Sexual Predators
Sext messages are usually sent to one person, with the hope that the photo will remain private. There are no guarantees that will be the case. The recipient can show the photo to friends or post it online. Photos posted online are public domain and no one can control who will see them. A sexual predator can find the photo and, using public information, find the person in the photo.
Parents must teach teens about responsible texting the social media use to protect them from the risks involved today and down the road.