A dangerous new trend is growing among teenagers: text messaging nude photos of themselves via their cell phones, also known as “sexting”. Students as young as twelve are exchanging explicit pictures and messages through their cell phones.
According to a survey by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy, one teen in five reports he or she has sent or posted naked photos of himself or herself. Why? Sixty-percent said they wanted to impress a boy or girl, calling the photos “fun and flirty”. Twenty-three percent said they gave in to peer pressure. And 25 percent of teen girls and 33 percent of teen boys report seeing naked images originally sent to someone else.
What may start out as an “innocent” photo sent to a boyfriend today can turn into tomorrow’s nightmare. Once that explicit picture is on a cell phone and the "sent" button is pressed, that picture is out in "cyberspace" and can then be put on the Internet for all to see, including sexual predators. The damage can be substantial. Today’s teenage prank can be tomorrow’s lost job or denied college admission. Several teens who have been caught with nude photos on their cell phones have been charged with possession and distributing pornography. This is a felony.
- Talk to your teen. Studies show that teens really want to hear their parents say, "Don't do this!" And believe it or not, teens are really looking for boundaries. Make sure that your teen knows exactly what your expect in regards to using a cell phone.
- Don’t be afraid to check your child’s cell phone (after all, you pay the bill) and their MySpace or Facebook page. Like Dr. Phil says (yes, I watch Dr. Phil), a teenager’s brain is not fully developed, and he/she can't predict the long-term consequences of their actions. (I do believe a teen needs his/her privacy, but not when they are involved in a dangerous activity, such as “sexting”.)
- Consider getting your child a phone that does not take photos. It will keep him or her from being the source of impulsive pictures.
Whether they know it or not, they depend on us as their parents to help prevent them from making these dangerous mistakes. We have to be their conscious.
Talk to your child. Google “sexting”. Be informed. You child’s future could depend on it.