You know those yearly round-ups of obnoxious non-words that need to be stricken from our vocabulary? Can we please add “sexting” to the next one? Man I hate the word “sexting” People are sending sexually explicit text messages. They aren’t getting it on with their cell phones.
Alright, vocabulary aside, let’s talk about teens and sexually explicit messages. We’ve been having a collective parenting freak-out about this frightening little trend for some time now. Plenty of states have either enacted or proposed legislation to curb sexting and possibly punish those who choose to send risque pictures. Obviously, this is a pretty big issue.
So I have to admit that when I read the results of a recent survey of teens that shows that almost 20%, nearly 1 in 5 teenagers, were sending explicit messages, I wasn’t exactly shocked. In fact, I wondered if the true amount wasn’t actually higher, given that 50% of boys and 31% of girls admitted receiving sexts. Either that or those who are willing to send inappropriate content are willing to send it to lots of people.
But there was a statistic in this little survey that I think deserves more attention. In fact, I think it might help to make teens understand just why sexting is such a problem to begin with. Of those who receive sexually explicit messages, 25% of those teens forward the message on to someone else. If you’re sending a naughty picture of yourself, there’s a 1 in 4 text the recipient will send it on to others.
This, more than anything, is the reason that sexting is so dangerous. The images are so easy to share. And even if you think that you’re sending them to a boyfriend or girlfriend who would never pass them along, what happens if you break up? Once these images are out there, they’re out there forever and their distribution is out of your control.
Teens are going to flirt and maybe even experiment with their sexuality. They’re going to bear a little skin. But parents need to reinforce the fact that once you give an image like that to someone else, that person might just send it on. And you don’t know where that chain will stop or how many people will see what you thought was meant for an individual. It’s not just in Lifetime movies that an innocent flirtation becomes a school-wide rumor or smear campaign.