Yesterday when my daughter came home from school we had our usual “How was your day? Best thing? Worst thing?” chat. During the conversation, I mentioned I was working on blog topics about parents, kids & technology. Her immediate response was, “You should totally write about sexting.”
In a completely unscientific study conducted by my daughter & her friend over lunch, they determined that, at their high school, Grade 10’s seem to be the ones with the most embarrassing pictures that have made the rounds at school, “most” being the highest number & most shaming sexted messages. Grade 10 students are between 15 & 16 years old, too young to drive, but old enough to make decisions that have long term consequences.
I am so thankful there were no camera phones back in the 80’s when I was a teen. For my generation, most of our bad decisions only surface at high school reunions, “Dude, remember the time we took your uncle’s truck without telling him & wrecked it?” or, “Remember the time we tried to cut your hair like Cyndi Lauper’s?” The days of our mistakes living mainly in memory are long gone. Who knew we’d look back at the 80’s as an Age of Innocence?
According to Eric Rice, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, “15% of teens who had access to a cell phone had sexted, and 54% reported knowing someone who had sent a sext.” Statistics for Canadian teens & sexting are difficult to determine as to date no scientific studies have been conducted.
It makes sense that at an age when youth are becoming sexually aware, they would use whatever means available to explore that sexuality. For some teens, sexting may be a way to flirt, for others, it’s a way to show they’re taking the relationship to the next level. For some, the perceived anonymity of the internet & the simple fact it isn’t a face to face interaction can provide a false sense of security. Remember, once you hit “Send”, that image is out of your control.
Loss of that control is where teens run into trouble. Under Canada’s Child Pornography laws, distributing sexually explicit images of an individual under the age of 18 is a crime, (Criminal Code Section 163.1), though sexted images between teenagers are unlikely to be brought to the attention of law enforcement. However, those images don’t always stay between two the individuals. According to a survey by The Associated Press & MTV, 17% of those who received a sext passed it along & in a second survey by NCPTUP/Cosmogirl.com, 25% of girls & 33% of boys had seen sexually explicit sexts intended for someone else.
As a parent, it is our responsibility to make our kids aware of the consequences of our decisions. I recommend using the example with your kids of “Would you want me to see it? What about your dad? Your grandfather?” If you wouldn’t feel comfortable with any of them seeing the content of that message, don’t send it. Once those images are out, they’re out there forever. Just ask Prince Harry.
Image Source: National Post Life