Sexting: Harmless Fun or Serious Issue?

Welcome to the first edition of Teen/Tween Thursday where each week I will be tackling an important issue facing our kids.

I am a mom of 12 and 13 year old boys, a 16 year old (bonus) son and a 15 year old sister.  I was a teen mom so I am fairly young (31) but am absolutely amazed at the way the world of teens has changed since I was my boys age(s).

I currently (and have in the past) work with teen moms, providing support, advice and showing the love of Jesus in a practical way.  So, teens are on my heart.

And, for the record, I am completely overwhelmed as a mom of teens/tweens.  Anyone that says that the toddler years are the most difficult have  yet experienced the mood swings and back talk of an adolescent!  I figured what better way to navigate the murky waters of parenting teens than sharing the experience on my blog and asking others to link their situations/thoughts/posts in the comments or via a linky. (which by the way is not going to happen today- crazy day- so if you have a post please link it in the comments)

On to today’s topic:

Sexting

From The View to prime time dramas like The Deep End, sexting is a hot topic in the media.  Is it as much of a widespread problem as it is made out to be or are these just kids being kids?  Here is my two cents:

Let’s start with a definition:

Sexting is the slang term for the use of a cell phone or other similar electronic device to distribute pictures or video of sexually explicit images. It can also refer to text messages of a sexually-charged nature. (via about.com)

Then some statistics:

According to a 2008 survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:

  • 20% of teenagers have sent text messages of a sexual nature (of themselves)
  • 39% of teenagers have sent or posted sexually suggestive messages via electronic devices
  • 48% of teenagers have received such messages
  • 44% of teenagers admit that such messages are usually shared by the recipient with peers
  • 52% of girls 11-16 say they sent these messages as a “sexy gift” to their boyfriend

There are many more disturbing statistics but I think a very valid and scary point is made by the numbers above.

In this day and age we need to be cognizant of the fact that our kids have grown up in a technologically fast paced world (they have moms that blog, for Pete’s sake =))  They have always known what it is like to have computers that fit in your lap and cell phones that not only fit in your pocket but take pictures.

I don’t know if you remember being a teen but temptation and peer pressure certainly existed in my life during that time.  Easy access to the internet, Facebook and smartphones did not.  Our kids are facing all of the above.  As a lawyer on The Deep End said “Aren’t you glad they didn’t have cell phones with cameras when we were sixteen?”

When we dealt with sexting in our home recently I did not handle it well (AT ALL) at first.  Then I took a deep breath, prayed and did some research.

I realized a myriad of things but the most important is that over reacting pushes your child away.  A child that shuts down is not a teachable child.

Next, I learned that being the recipient of such a message does not mean the child requested (nor was comfortable with) receiving it.

Third, I discovered that kids feel a sense of empowerment behind an electronic device that they don’t necessarily have face to face.  (This can be dangerous if such a text is sent to someone that is older or more experienced in sexual matters than the child sending the text)

Lastly, and so easy to forget, sexting is a behavior.  A child that sends an inappropriate message is not a bad child.  Rather they are exhibiting behavior that their brains are not mature enough to forecast the consequences of.

As parents of teens/tweens we have to be the forecaster.  The weatherman (or woman) for things to come.  Sit down and talk with your kids about sexting.  Come up with a plan for what you expect them to do if they are ever on the receiving end of a message.  Talk about appropriate parameters for boy/girl relationships.

And then point them to the media and the coverage of the kids who have been charged as sex offenders for forwarding the messages sent to their phones.  Sexting is considered a crime in many states and one seemingly unimportant decision can end up affecting your child’s life far into adulthood.

Lord, our kids are encountering challenges we did not as kids.  Open our eyes to the issues they face.  Show us how to help them navigate the waters of these crucial years and give us the strength, patience and wisdom to show them Your love through our actions and words. ~Amen

Any comments? ideas? fears?

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Comments

  1. my son is only 8, what will i be facing when he's 12 already like your kids. yes, i am fearful. very fearful because technology improvement is very fast.

  2. Honestly being young as well like you, I remember all the peer pressure surrounding high school. I think children now have easier access to things they shouldn't and it is up to us to help them make the right choices. Great of you to bring up this discussion!

  3. I have not had to deal with this yet, but I'm glad I read your post. I would have (and probably still will) overreact at first. It's kinda in my nature unfortunately. But I think your statements will stick with me. I have to remind myself often that kids do bad things and make bad decisions, but that doesn't make them bad. Thanks for the post. Really gives us all something to think about.

  4. linneyshvede says:

    I'll tell you it was a problem in our middle school…and that was 4 years ago. I can't imagine what it is now and what I'm NOT hearing about. Ruins your reputation in one second. Because when they say they won't share the pics and texts, they are sending them to everyone they know. I so felt for that girl and her parents…

  5. I have dealt with this in my household. It led to the loss of privileges of texting. Sadly, it didn't turn out well and we are still dealing with the repercussions of her decisions.

    Being a mom of a teen is horrible. I have children aged 14 months, 3 years, 8 years, 9 years, and 16 years. (the last 3 are bonus! 🙂 ) and I can say that being a mom of a teen is just hard. I am often at a loss of what to do besides just sit down and pray.

    Here is the post that was done after the fact.
    http://www.tobethode.com/2010/01/we-have-been-t

    I am around if you ever need someone to talk with about this stuff. 🙂

    Thanks for linking up with Saturday Sound Off. I am following you now.

  6. wow. i'm a high school teacher and i never heard of sexting. i'm speechless.

  7. actingbalanced says:

    I have to say that I police what my 11 year old does with her cell phone/internet pretty carefully – and she's not there … yet…
    I'm not sure that sexting is going to be as big a deal in the next crop of tweens coming up because they are even more media savvy and cognizant of how they portray themselves… As media becomes more readily available and mainstream, I can see sexting becoming bigger again as well… but for now I think you're right about the open lines of communication… stopping by because I saw your post on Saturday Sound off

  8. 7ClownCircus says:

    I really, really appreciated your thoughts on this.

    Allowing my children to text at all scares me. Sexting horrifies me. I honestly don't know how I”m going to deal with this issues when they come up as it's just around the corner for me.

  9. I have a 17, 16 and 14 year old and have only recently heard the term but had no idea what it meant. Your post has given me a lot to think about and I know I'm going to have to have some serious talks with my babies (hah! they hate it when I call them that!)

    I started young too, so i've just turned 38 this week and to think what our kids are going through is mind-boggling. Thank you for tackling such an important issue. I'm glad I found you!

  10. Talking about sexual isues with your child is an imperative. My parents dind't and I had a lot of problems. I remember that for my 18th birthday my dad gave me a book about teenager's problems such as the first kiss, the first menstruation and such. I realized then how much times have changed and how big the generation gap was. Good thing we had sex-classes in highschool.

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