Several current studies have found that despite broad informational and educational efforts to warn kids about the consequences of sexting (sending semi-nude or nude photos by smartphone), today’s teenagers are still sexting.
Researchers are still attempting to get a handle on how widespread sexting is among teens — and further research is needed — but a recent study from Drexel University found that more than 50% of students surveyed had sent or received a sext as a minor.
Drexel’s study also confirmed what other studies have shown, that teenagers who sext are largely unaware of potential criminal charges that could be brought against them in some jurisdictions.
Other recent research indicates that sexting trends are trickling down to younger students in middle school, and that sexting at a younger age increases the likelihood of sexual activity, in contrast to students who did not sext.
What Can Parents Do?
• Parents should keep in mind that not all kids sext and that not all kids who sext experience negative consequences.
• Since sexting can result in devastating consequences for kids, parents should be proactive in discussing sexting and its consequences with their teenagers (such as the potential for viral distribution of a sext, the lingering impact of digital images on the internet, and the potential criminal and legal consequences of sexting.)
• Parents should understand that teens’ brains are wired for risk-taking, which may increase the appeal of sexting.
• Parents should reinforce God-honoring principles of sexuality, healthy self-exteem, and respect for others.
• Parents should establish clear expectations and consequences for sexting.
• Parents should become familiar with smartphone photo apps that are commonly used for sexting. Notably, Shapchat has been a sexting app of choice because it gives kids a false sense of security in believing that pictures and videos self-destruct.
• Parents should create an overall plan to provide direction for teen’s smartphone use to include what apps are allowed, what apps are purchased, and acceptable use for apps.