If your teen has a cell phone, you’re probably aware of the dangers of sexting, the practice of sending sexually explicit messages and photos. Maybe you’ve even discussed it with your teen. You might feel sure that, while other teens may get into trouble with sexting, your teen is not engaging in this practice. The problem is, most parents don’t suspect their teens of sexting until it’s too late. You may find the facts and statistics on teen sexting to be a real shock. The following is what you need to know about teens and sexting.
Who is Sexting?
While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly which teens are sexting, there are more of them than you might think. Around 20% of teens surveyed have posted or sent nude or semi-nude photos, and close to 40% say that they have sent sexually suggestive messages via text or instant message. And if your teen isn’t sending these sexts, he or she may be receiving them. Nearly half of teens say that they’ve received sexually suggestive messages.
While 71% of girls and 67% of boys say that they’ve sent sexual content to a boyfriend or girlfriend, 21% of girls and 39% of boys say that they’ve sent these kinds of messages to someone that they want to date or hook up with. Even more disturbing, 15% of teens who have sent nude or semi-nude images say that they’ve sent them to someone that they only know online.
What Happens to Sexts?
Once your child sends a sexually explicit message or a graphic photo, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle. Statistics show that only 17% of sexters will share a message they received — however, of those that do share the images they received, 55% will share it with more than one person. That means that if your teen trusts the wrong person with their image or message, they can suffer serious social consequences, as pictures can be passed around a friend group or disseminated throughout the school. There have been cases of sexually explicit images or messages going viral — that is, hitting the internet and being shared widely, even by people who have no connection at all with the message sender or receiver.
Of course, sending images or messages to someone that your teen knows only online increases the chances that the message will be seen by someone other than the intended recipient. Someone who doesn’t know your teen personally has little incentive to protect their privacy. Also, there’s always the chance that the recipient of the message is a predator, who may share photos and information with other predators. This is why law enforcement has cracked down, deeming sexts by underage persons to be child pornography, subject to criminal charges. While this is intended to protect your child from predators, it can also result in legal problems for your child if they’ve sent or passed on these messages.
How Are Teens Sexting?
It’s important to realize that just glancing through your child’s text messages now and then is not enough. Teens have many tools at their disposal that will help them hide sexting if they want to. For example, they could use an anonymous message service app, like Kik messenger, so the sexts don’t show up in their texting history.
There are also various apps that allow teens to hide messages and photos on their phones, like Calculator Percent, an app that looks and acts like a calculator to the unsuspecting parent, but when a secret code is entered, opens up to a vault that can store pictures the teen would like to hide.
Web monitoring software can help you keep an eye on the messages your teen is sending and receiving, even if they’re using an app. To find out more about protecting your teen from bad choices like sexting, get our free trial.