As they grow into adolescence, teenagers face pressure to look cool in both the realms of technology and sexuality. While it is important for teens to learn how to be independent, parents and caregivers play an essential role in guiding them through these areas of exploration. They may think they know it all, but teens face many long-lasting consequences when technology and sexuality collide.
The relatively new phenomenon, called “sexting,” is much more common among teens than many adults realize, and may involve sending, receiving, or forwarding messages of a sexual nature. Sexting is not illegal on its own, but when it involves pictures of people under the age of 18, child pornography laws may become relevant. In the heat of the moment, many teens don’t think about how their actions may affect their future. Sexting can have serious and long-lasting effects, including arrest, jail time, and possibly the need to register as a sex offender. Because the consequences can be so extreme, it is crucial that the important adults in a teen’s life speak with them about peer pressure, safe technology use, and setting boundaries in relationships.
The consequences of teen sexting are not only legal — there can be serious mental and emotional consequences as well. Once a nude or suggestive image is sent to one person, it can be replicated an infinite number of times. These images can be used to bully and can follow a teen around for years. Forwarded sexual images and sext-based bullying can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, poor body image, and low self esteem. Staying involved in your teen’s technology use and getting to know their friends can be a helpful way to stay aware of the kinds of social pressures they may be experiencing. Researching some of the many real life examples of how sexting can negatively impact teens can be a good conversation starter and may help your teen understand just how real the consequences are.