6 Things Teens Do Not Know About Sexting But Should

Be sure your teen knows the risks of sexting

teen on iPad

Today's teens are always connected, living out their lives online and in the public eye. They share photos on Instagram, live tweet at concerts, and message their friends instead of calling. But sometimes teens do not make wise choices about what they are posting, sharing or texting. As a result, they overstep boundaries without thinking about the consequences. Sexting is an example of how one impulsive decision can affect their lives for years to come.

To some teens, sending sexually explicit content is a normal way to interact with their peers. To them, they see nothing wrong with sexting, especially if they believe that “everyone is doing it.” Meanwhile, other teens engage in sexting because they see it as a joke or because they feel pressured to do so.

In fact, research by Drexel University shows that as many as half of all teens engage in sexting prior to age 18. But many teens do not realize that sexting has serious consequences. In fact, the study found that the majority teens are not aware of the legal ramifications of underage sexting. Here are five major dangers. Be sure your teen knows the risks.

Sexting Constitutes Child Pornography

When nude pictures or partially nude pictures involve minors, this is considered child pornography in many states. While state laws vary about the rules and regulations of sexting, in some states exchanging nude photos of minors is considered a felony, even when the photos being taken and shared are consensual. For instance, the teen taking or sharing the photo can be charged with disseminating child pornography. Meanwhile, the person receiving the photo can be charged with possession of child pornography, even if the person did not request that the photo be sent. What’s more, teens can be labeled sex offenders for sending or possessing sexually explicit photos of other teens. There have even been cases where teens were charged with a crime even if the photos are of them. Yet, as many as 61 percent of teens do not realize that sexting could be considered child pornography. But nearly as many said that if they had known, it "probably would have" deterred them from sexting.

Sexting Can Lead to Sexual Bullying

Once a sext is sent into cyberspace, your teen loses all control over the image. People can use it in any way they want. And unfortunately, many people will use the images to sexually bully the person in the photo. One example of sexual bullying is called slut shaming. In these instances, people make assumptions about the teen’s willingness to engage in sexual activity. They also may make assumptions about the teen’s reputation. Meanwhile, a cyberbully might share the photo online to embarrass and humiliate the teen in the photo. Or, a cyberbully might use the photo or photos to impersonate the teen the picture and post inappropriate comments and remarks.

Sexting Can Open the Door to Sexual Predators

Although a sext is usually intended for only one person's eyes, there is no way to control who sees the photo once your teen sends it. In fact, there are countless cases where a teen has sent a sexually provocative photo to a significant other and then later finds out this photo has been passed around and sometimes even shared online. Once the photo becomes public, there is no way to control the audience. As a result, a sexual predator may get ahold of the photo. When this happens, your child is at an increased risk of being sexually exploited by people who claim to be someone they are not.

Sexting Puts Teens at Risk for Blackmail

Sometimes when a teen sends a nude photo during an impulsive moment, they are later at risk for being blackmailed. There have been cases where the recipient of the image may threaten to publicly shame the sender unless they comply with the blackmailer’s demands. Many teens who are subjected to these types of threats give in. They are often too embarrassed to ask anyone for help and may be at the mercy of the blackmailer for a long time.

Sexts Never Go Away

Many teens mistakenly believe that a photo sent via text message, email or even Snapchat will only be able to be viewed by the recipient. But these images are now out of the sender’s control and can be shared, copied and posted. Even images shared using Snapchat put a teen at risk. Although the images sent through Snapchat are designed to be deleted automatically in a matter of seconds, teens have learned how to copy images and save them before the app deletes them. Many lives have been ruined by photos sent via Snapchat.

Sexting Ruins a Teen’s Reputation

It is never a good idea for a teen to send sexually explicit messages to another person, no matter how serious the relationship. Aside for the legal risks and the cyberbullying risks, photos like these destroy reputations. For instance, the love interest might brag about the photos and show them to others. Additionally, there is an even greater risk to the teen’s reputation if the two break up. Some teens will share the photos or make them public as revenge. The end result is humiliation and embarrassment that could lead to bullying such as slut shaming and name-calling. What’s more, these images also can ruin a teen’s online reputation especially if college admissions staff, future employers or future romantic partners access the information years later.

A Word from Verywell Family

Overall be sure your teens know the legal and emotional consequences of sexting. By doing so, you are not only educating them about the risks involved, but you may deter them from engaging in the behavior at all.

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Article Sources

  • "Majority of Minors Engage in Sexting, Unaware of Harsh Legal Consequences," Drexel University, 2014. http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2014/June/Sexting-Study/

  • "Youth Sexting: Prevalence Rates, Driving Motivations, and the Deterrent Effect of Legal Consequences." Sexuality Research and Social Policy, September 2014. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13178-014-0162-9