Various causes: The reasons teens “sext” vary widely. In some cases it’s a form of flirting or a way of showing affection for a boyfriend or girlfriend or someone the teen is interested in dating. Sometimes it’s impulsive behavior, perhaps at a party or when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are also cases where the teen is responding to peer pressure, bullying or even threats. In rarer cases, adults solicit images from teens. Some teens view sexting as a form of “safe sex” because, unlike physical sex, there is no risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
Parents, talk with your kids about sexting in a relaxed setting. Ask them what they know about it. Express how you feel in a conversational, non-confrontational way. For one thing, help them think about what it might feel like to have intimate photos of themselves forwarded to any number of peers by someone they thought they liked or trusted. A two-way dialog can go a long way toward helping your kids understand how to minimize legal, social and reputation risks. If they want to avoid the conversation, that’s OK, have it anyway. Just don’t expect it to last very long and be respectful of how they respond.
If your children have received any nude pictures on their phones, have them delete the photos. Your family doesn’t want to run the risk of having what could be deemed “child pornography” on any of its devices.
The next most important thing is to have the calm, supportive conversation we mention above, if you haven’t already, and learn as much as you can about the situation – for example, if they forwarded any images and why and what they think about the motives behind the incident. Talk about the possible psychological and legal impacts.
Consider talking with other teens and parents involved, and possibly your child’s school, based on what you’ve learned, but keep your child informed and involved. Every case is unique and contextual, but if your child’s involved, so is his or her social life and emotional wellbeing.