What parents need to know about Sexting 

March 31, 2014

Jenna-Lyn Ryckebusch, a Senior Programs Coordinator at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, recently joined the Darkness to Light Facilitators at their quarterly meeting to discuss sexting and online solicitation. 

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children categorizes sexting as the sending or posting of nude or partially nude images.  With the availability of technologically advanced cell phones with video capabilities, sexting is a growing issue for teens.  4% of cell-owning teens (12-17) say they have sent nude or partially nude images.  NCMEC through their NetSmartz Workshop http://www.netsmartz.org, have developed 5 tips that parents can use to talk to their teens about sexting.

  1. Think about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone else, even if it’s of you.  You could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even face a police investigation.
  2. Never take images of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone – your classmates, your teachers, your family, or your employer – to see.
  3. Before hitting send remember that you can’t control where this image may travel.  What you send to a boyfriend or girlfriend could easily end up with their friends, and their friends’ friends, and so on.
  4. If you forward a sexual picture of someone without their consent, you are violating their trust and exposing them to potential ridicule.  It’s not up to you to decide who should see their body, so don’t forward the image to anyone.
  5. If anyone pressures you to send a sexual picture, don’t give in and talk to an adult you trust.  Remember that anyone who tries to get you to do something you are uncomfortable with is probably not trustworthy.

To prevent your teen from sexting, try setting house rules for Internet and cell phone use with your teen.  Talk about what the consequences will be if the rules are broken.   Know what apps teens are downloading and using.  Look for apps such as Snap Chat, Yik Yak, and Kik on their mobile devices and understand how the apps work and what they are used for.  Remember to model for your children what is appropriate to post on your own social media.

Try these Discussion Starters

• Have you ever received a sexual message or naked picture on your cell phone?

• Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to send a nude or sexual picture?

• Do you think it’s OK to send “sexy” images? Why?

• What could happen to you if you send or forward a naked picture?

• How likely is it that images and messages intended for one person will be seen by others?