Tag Archives: sexting

The Hard Truth About Sexting

By Stacey Ross   

I recently met a mom who was taken back when she found out that her 15 year-old son had received a photo from a classmate – namely a nude selfie that was circulating around the school. Sadly, the photo was of a young teenage girl, who was also in the boys’ class.

Had her son intended to forward or share the photo? Doubtful. Did the girl and those circulating the photo all contribute to the ensuing mess? Yes. Did everyone understand the ramifications of their actions? A big fat NO!

A sexting expert speaks

As the school year begins, Chris Duque, a cybersecurity specialist based in Hawaii, gathers parents together to enlighten them about the stark realities of the Internet, and how they can become more involved in their kids’ online worlds. He also diligently educates families of young teens about the life-changing consequences of sexting.

“Parents and teens don’t understand the ramifications of sexting until they get personally involved, but by then, the damage has already been done. My recent talk to parents revealed that most of them didn’t know the criminal liabilities their children face when sexing, but also the impact on their reputations and futures,” Duque said.

Here are a few of the points that he emphasizes:

1)     Children can face criminal penalties, as the photos or videos can be construed as child pornography.

Child pornography laws were originally designed to protect children against adult predators, but in the present digital age both consensual and non-consensual sexting can be deemed criminal when the person in the photo is under 18 years of age.  Depending on the state, consequences can include felony charges, mandatory sex offender registration, and even a prison sentence.

2)     Because of the permanence of the Internet, the photos can continue to haunt a child for life.

The internet is merciless and, sadly, what goes online is likely to stay online. As celebrities, musicians, and other online enthusiasts continue to reveal personal content at an increasing alarming rate, children run the risk of being desensitized, deeming images shared as playful and innocuous.

Duque urges everyone to take precautionary measures by steering away from images that are sexually provocative or are compromising to one’s character.

3)     Photos and videos might be used to bully the child or lead to ‘sextortion.’

Predators are very skilled at posing as teens on social media and gaming sites. They are also skilled at luring in vulnerable victims, who eventually grow to trust them enough to willingly send lewd photos of themselves to the predators. These people then reach into their bag of tricks to find crafty ways to extort money or additional images from their victims, who are trapped in the insidious racket.

Duque recommends that parents look at the sexting legislation where they live and have regular heart-to-heart chats with their kids about responsible behavior. He stresses the grave consequences of circulating compromising photos and asks students to think twice about the content of their posts. And that’s the naked truth!

Stacey_Ross_50Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Dealing With Sexting

May I say how glad I am that there were no smartphones when I was a teenager. A cell phone? Sure, that would have been great, but a smartphone with a camera? I shudder at the thought. Fortunately for my generation, most of our bad decisions are just foggy memories or yellowing photos forgotten in a shoe box.

Not so for this generation. Cell phones are in the hands, backpacks or pockets of 78 percent of American teens. And not just any old cell phones. At least 47 percent are smartphones, which translates to having the Internet in all its unfiltered glory in those hands, backpacks and pockets. Teens are free to search and send anything – literally anything – they choose, including sexually explicit texts and images.

So, what do you do if you discover your child has been involved in sexting? First of all, if you suspect your teen is using his/her phone for sexting, do something. You are the parent and it is your responsibility to protect your child whether they are the one sending the inappropriate content or receiving it from friends. You do your best to monitor your home computer, the movies they see, and the games they play. Why is their phone exempt from the same level of scrutiny? Respect for privacy is important, but safety is a much greater priority.

Start with a conversation. Don’t lecture or accuse, but be honest about the risks and responsibilities. Agree to setting boundaries, with the understanding that you’ll be checking in from time to time. And don’t be afraid to follow up. Fear that mom or dad will find out isn’t the best reason for making a decision, but it’s saved more than one child from making poor decisions.

Second, if your suspicions are true and your child has been sexting, don’t panic. You were once a teenager and made mistakes. Teens make impulsive choices all the time, this one just has more potential for serious trouble.

Use this as a teachable moment. When your children were little, you disciplined to change behavior, not just punish, and the same rules apply here. You want to help them not to make the same mistake again. Accountability is crucial. They may not be able to undo what they’ve already done, but they can take responsibility for their actions.

It’s important that impulse-driven teens learn consequences. If the situation warrants, consider taking away the smartphone. If you’re uncomfortable with your teen being less accessible, give them a phone without internet access or texting capability. It may feel like a life threatening loss to them, but it’s a lesson not soon forgotten.

If you know sexting is a problem and you’ve exhausted other options, software is available that allows you to monitor your child’s cell phone activity remotely. All incoming and outgoing calls, texts, email and web browsing activities are tracked.

Next, if the content is shared, act quickly. If it’s been shared via social media, contact the site and report it. If the images have been shared at school, contact the principal and other authorities, so they are fully aware of the situation and can act in accordance with school policies. Be aware of the laws in your state. Sharing sexually explicit images of underage individuals is a serious crime. If the image has gone viral, contact local law enforcement so they too can act.

If your child is the victim, track everything. Take screen shots of messages on social media, chat rooms, or via text. You will want a virtual paper trail of the harassment so you have evidence for the authorities.

Also, if your child is the victim, encourage your child not to respond to the abuse. It rarely helps and often leads to further harassment. Don’t reply to emails or texts. Block those who are engaging in the bullying and take down your child’s social media profiles. Stay offline. Later, at a time when you and your child feel safe, you can start over with a fresh profile with stringent privacy settings.

Finally, if it’s all too much and you or your child feels overwhelmed, get help. The constant abuse and bullying may result in anxiety and depression, leaving scars that last a lifetime.

Parenting is a whole new game than when our parents were raising us. Who knew the 70’s and 80’s would seem like the 50’s did for our parents? Each generation faces challenges unheard of for the generation before. If our kids are going to be ready for the challenges of raising our grandkids, it’s up to us to start planting those seeds of common sense and restraint now.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, Ontario. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.