Sexting and Nudes... What You Need to Know as a Parent

Online Safety
By
Cyber Dive
Nov 8, 2021
8 min read

Sexting has become a regular occurrence among teenagers. According to a pediatrics study performed by the American Medical Association, at least one in four teens admit to sexting. In case you aren't sure what classifies as sexting, it's the act of sending sexually explicit photos or messages over text or through direct messages on social media platforms. Teens might think that it's all fun and games at the moment, but once they send a nude photo out, there's no going back.

Oftentimes, when parents talk to their children about sending nudes they simply tell them not to. But with 25% of teens engaging in it, maybe it's time we take a different approach. Talk with them about the different forms of sexting, how they can be in trouble even if the photo isn't of them and what the consequences would be if they were to get caught. It's important that parents teach their children the consequences of sexting (and what it really means) before they potentially find out the hard way! For some insight on what this conversation could look like, read on.

Why are teens sexting?

A big reason why teenagers take part in sexting is peer pressure. Maybe their friends have sent nude photos before or maybe their 15-year-old boyfriend of 2 months (who clearly knows best) is sending them photos and asking for some in return. They might even see it as some right of passage, glamorized by celebrities who increase their Instagram following by 100,000 every time a nude photo is leaked.

Not to mention, technology has made it easier than ever to send nude photos. With apps like Snapchat and the disappearing message feature in Instagram, teens feel more inclined to send provocative content because they think, "it goes away after 5 seconds" or "I would know if they screen shotted it".  They neglect the fact that even if they only meant for that one person to see it, once they press send it's out of their control.

Whether they're motivated by peer pressure or are unaware of the serious consequences, their motive overpowers any fear of legal punishment or thought of future regret.

Legal Consequences of Sexting

What teens (or anyone under the age of 18) often forget when sexting is that they are in the possession and/or distributing child pornography. The legal consequences vary state-by-state as some have laws in place specifically for minors while others charge minors and adults the same.

Now, what many teens are unaware of is the severity of some of these consequences, especially in states without minor specific laws. They can range anywhere from community service to jail time to being registered as a sexual offender. This goes for sending OR receiving sexual content of a minor.

Here's a breakdown of the current laws in each state.

Emotional Consequences of Sexting

Part of the reason teens are careless when it comes to sending or receiving nudes is that they neglect the possibility of emotional consequences. They think that if they're careful and don't get caught legally, they won't regret their decision to trust another child with this content. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Engaging in sexting can have a lasting effect on their mental health.

What if they get leaked?

After sending promiscuous messages they might spend days, weeks, months or years stressing about the fact that this person has the ability to leak them. This is usually the case with teens who experience a break-up with someone they previously sent these types of messages to. Now that they are no longer in that relationship, they might fear that this person will send their photos around out of spite, anger or jealousy.

How is it going to affect their reputation?

Another emotional consequence is being bullied by others for it. In the case their sexting messages are sent around or even talked about, they may be slut-shamed by friends and peers. Their self-confidence could take a hit if there is mention of how their body looked or other physical features. This reputation could follow them for years, affecting how others perceive them and how they begin to perceive themselves.

How is it going to affect their mental health?

Whether they become stressed about having their photos and messages leaked or are being victimized by others for it, their mental health will likely be impacted. They could develop anxiety, depression, body image issues leading to eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder. They may struggle with their confidence and self-esteem if others make comments about how their body looked or other physical features.

How is it going to affect my future plans?

And lastly, the fear that these photos and messages are out there forever, and future college or employers may find them. The way you present yourself online has become a huge factor when applying for colleges and jobs. During the application process, the organizations are likely scanning the internet and reviewing all of your social media accounts. If these images are for some reason leaked, it's likely they will come across them and it can affect your chances of getting accepted or receiving the offer.

How to have this conversation.

Ask questions.

Start by asking if them if they even know what sexting is. Have they heard about it from movies or tv shows? Do they have friends that have talked about it or engaged in it? Starting the conversations by asking them what they know about the topic is helpful in navigating the conversation.

Make them feel comfortable.

Make sure they know that you are always open to talking about these types of situations and want them to feel comfortable asking you questions. The more open and honest these conversations the less awkward they will be, the more frequently you can have them and the more productive they can be.

Set healthy boundaries.

Teach them to set healthy boundaries with others, especially if they are dipping into romantic relationships. Remind them that always have the right to say no if someone asks them to send a nude photo. If someone sends them an unsolicited sext, they should come to you immediately so that you can help them handle the situation.

Act with intention.

Encourage them to be extremely mindful of the content they interact and engage with online. They should understand that the internet is forever even if it seems like it isn't with the self-destructing messages and 5-second photo timers. They should never post or send anything they wouldn't be comfortable having a teacher or parent see. This can help them check themselves before doing something they would later regret.

Talking with your child about the consequences of sexting and what constitutes as child pornography is a crucial tough conversation you need to be having. Keeping them informed on how it can get them into legal trouble as well as affect their mental health can help frame their mindset when it comes to sending and receiving potentially inappropriate photos or messages. Be intentional about having these conversations and do your best in making your child feel comfortable enough to ask questions and share their opinions.

"It's encouraging to know that, as parents, you do not have to be left in the dark, you can be involved. That's quite a powerful tool."
Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart Foundation
"Helping parents prepare for the gamut of situations to which social media opens the door has made [Cyber Dive] venture more valuable than the bottom line."
Georgann Yara
azcentral
"If we're concerned about stranger danger... what about a stranger getting into your child's direct messages? It can be just as dangerous, if not more so."
Billy Harfosh
iHeartRadio
"In a society that relies so much on virtual connection, it is necessary that we teach our children how to navigate and use technology responsibly."
Dawn Van Vamp
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
"As a Lawman and a parent I love seeing solutions for protecting children from the child predators. This Aqua One phone helps parents and even addresses the mental health of the child. Well done Cyber Dive."
Sheriff Mark Lamb
Sheriff of Pinal County Arizona
"[Aqua One] was just launched and is going to change the way that our children grow up in a technology-driven world."
Desire Briggs
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
“One of the neatest parts about the tool is that it gives insight into not only the safety of what my child is doing out there but what my child is thinking.”
Brian Steele
CEO of Phoenix Dream Center
“Being informed of your child's social media habits isn't just beneficial from a safety standpoint. You'll get an inside look at what your kid is into and enjoying.”
Larissa Marulli
moms.com
"It's encouraging to know that, as parents, you do not have to be left in the dark, you can be involved. That's quite a powerful tool."
Elizabeth Smart
Elizabeth Smart Foundation
"Helping parents prepare for the gamut of situations to which social media opens the door has made [Cyber Dive] venture more valuable than the bottom line."
Georgann Yara
azcentral
"If we're concerned about stranger danger... what about a stranger getting into your child's direct messages? It can be just as dangerous, if not more so."
Billy Harfosh
iHeartRadio
"In a society that relies so much on virtual connection, it is necessary that we teach our children how to navigate and use technology responsibly."
Dawn Van Vamp
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
"As a Lawman and a parent I love seeing solutions for protecting children from the child predators. This Aqua One phone helps parents and even addresses the mental health of the child. Well done Cyber Dive."
Sheriff Mark Lamb
Sheriff of Pinal County Arizona
"[Aqua One] was just launched and is going to change the way that our children grow up in a technology-driven world."
Desire Briggs
Co-Founder of The Mama Army
“One of the neatest parts about the tool is that it gives insight into not only the safety of what my child is doing out there but what my child is thinking.”
Brian Steele
CEO of Phoenix Dream Center
“Being informed of your child's social media habits isn't just beneficial from a safety standpoint. You'll get an inside look at what your kid is into and enjoying.”
Larissa Marulli
moms.com

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