We live in a day and age where information is at your fingertips. Teens and young adults can access the internet through PCs, laptops, tablets and even cell phones. Through these devices, pictures and information can be shared with anyone at any time. Nearly one out of every two 10-13 year olds and 83% of 13-18 year olds own a cell phone. The cell phone has been a tool utilized by parents to keep in contact with their children while they are not home. As technology has become more advanced, the cell phone has become a tool for teens and young adults to keep in contact with one another through text messaging and the usage of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The average teen generates 50-70 text messages a day or about 18,000 messages a year. About 27% of teens who own a cell phone use it to access the internet.
While this does not look like a big deal, the type of information being shared over these text messages and social media sites is. Over the years, there has been a rise in the amount of cyberbullying taking place over electronic devices among teens and young adults, but a new frontier has come along that parents and teens should be made aware of: Sexting. Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, between cell phones and on social media sites like Facebook and AOL Instant Messenger. About 20% of teens between the ages 13-19 have posted or sent nude/semi-nude photos of themselves. Teens send sexually suggestive content to be fun and flirtatious, to be sent as a “sexy present” or a “joke”, but what teens do not realize is that these messages can be damaging to any of the parties involved in the act.
Sending sexually explicit pictures and messages to someone can lead to several different outcomes such as; the messages or pictures that were sent can be shared with others who are not meant to see them; the pictures or messages can be posted on social media blogs and sites for an entire audience to see. States are being forced to apply adult laws to teens for sexting and if the person who receives these messages/pictures shares them with others, this person can face criminal charges for child pornography and have to register as a sex offender.
The reason for the growing concern about Sexting is due to the pitfalls and misconceptions that surround it. A misconception that is common among teens and young adults is that what they send will remain private but about 40% of teens and young adults say they have had sexually suggestive messages shown to them. There is also a misconception that any sexually explicit messages, posting or pictures will go away once deleted, but what teens do not realize is, even when you do hit the delete button, it can still be accessible in cyberspace. One of the reasons why teens send these sexually suggestive messages or images out is to impress a potential boyfriend or girlfriend, but sending these messages can have legal consequences such as sex offender charges or jail time.
There are ways to prevent teens and young adults from sexting and suffering the consequences that come from this act. Parents can talk with their children about sexting and the legal consequences that can come from it; teach your child that just because you deleted a photo, does not mean it is gone forever; monitor the text messages being sent and the social media sites your children are on; and talk with your cell phone provider about plans that can eliminate the type of texts your child can receive and the amount of access your child can have on their phone to the internet.