Sexting: Think Your Teens are Innocently Texting a Friend?

internet_girls

Sex and Tech: The Surprising Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Ugh. I love technology but sometimes…I hate it! We all know that teens like to be online—in fact, just about 90% of teens are! The question is…what are they DOING online? What are they doing on their phone? Some of course are using it for fun, research, or connection—but others might be taking it to another level—a disturbing one.

Do you know about it? Chuck Norris is talking about it. Our Shaping Youth friends are talking about it. And here’s my colleague, Rosalind Wiseman talking about it:

It’s sexting…and sending sexually explicit messages across the internet. bThink it’s not happening too often? Yikes. Here’s the real info:

Results from a survey commissioned by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com, found that just over 1/5 of girls (21%) and just under 1/5 of boys (18%) have sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves. Around 40% of teens, both girls and boys, admit to sending sexually suggestive messages to others using technology. The trend increases to just under 2/3 when those teens become adults.

Who was surveyed? Participants were between the ages of 13 and 26 years of age. There were a total of 1280 respondents, 653 teens and 627 young adults, who answered the survey questions in the Fall of 2008.

How was it conducted? Online—of course!

Some disturbing findings:

  • Over 20% of girls and just under 40% of boys send these messages to people they WANT to hook up with or date.
  • About 15% of teens sent or posted pictures to someone they ONLY KNEW ONLINE

Don’t they know this is harmful?

  • While ¾ of teens say that sending sexually suggestive content using technology can hav e serious negative consequences, 39% of teens have sent such suggestive emails of text messages and 20% of teens have posted or sent nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.
  • About 44% of both teens boys and teen girls say it’s common place to share sexually explicit messages with other people once they are received.  They get forwarded and reposted.
  • 36% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say it’s common place for nude photos to be reposted or shared with others once they are received.

Why do it???

  • To flirt, as a sexy gift to someone, to be funny or make a joke, or because they received them from someone else.
  • 51% of teen girls say they feel pressured by a guy and that’s why they send these messages and photos.
  • Almost a quarter of teen girls and teen boys say they are pressured by friends.

What does this mean for parents and teachers?

  • Be aware– know what your teens are up to on the internet
  • Talk about it– the consequences and the benefits of different actions on the internet.
  • Discuss the rules– the internet is a tool that has power. What rules are set in place to protect your children?
  • Underscore character: It takes responsibility, respect and trust to use the internet. Make sure your children and teens are using their Powerful Words both on and offline.
  • Know who your child is communicating with: Who are your child’s friends on and offline? Don’t know? Find out.
  • Listen: Your children and teens want to talk but they don’t want to be judged.  Listen to their words but also listen to the messages they are saying behind the words.  They may be asking for help or advice.
  • Set your expectations: What are your family values?  What do you expect of your children and teens? Make sure your teens know what you and your family believe is OK on the internet and what isn’t OK. The internet should not be a free for all.
  • Get your teens involved with the 3 dimensional world! Make sure your teens are still doing the things they love with people in the area– drama, martial arts, sports, gymnastics. When teens are busy they are less likely to get into trouble and when they are doing things that make them feel good and worthwhile they are less likely to seek out alternative ways to get attention.
  • Use limitations: If you need to, limit internet access or internet time if your children and teens are abusing their time on the internet. The internet is a privilege that needs to be respected.

Want more information on sexting? Please see my colleague, Vanessa Van Petten’s blog posts on the topic:

To Sext or Not to Sext

Sexting 101 for Parents

Yes, your kid does it too

Happy interneting!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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One Response

  1. LOVE Rosalind Wiseman’s video on this…spot on for solutions-based dialog…I just sent you a bunch of links on FB to temper the sexting media hype, for as you know, I think media’s handling of the coverage often ‘fuels’ the behavior itself! (so it’s a chicken and egg thing)

    Maybe we should cross-post this on Shaping Youth as a joint ‘point-counterpoint’ critical thinking skills/analysis to help parents sort out the magnitude/mindset/media spin.

    What say you?

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