Since the advent of the internet, there have been things that have not caused concerned to parents. Unfortunately, this is NOT one of them. This article would explain why and would increase your concern for your child’s safety on the subject.
What is Sexting?
Sexting is a phrase coined from the morphing of the two words actively involved; ‘Sex’ and ‘Texting’. Also called ‘Sexy Texting’, the word added to the lexicon of the Oxford English dictionary in 2010 due to its increased usage.
They defined it as “the sending of sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone”. Although these images are mostly sent and received using mobile phones, they also could be done using a laptop computer.
So for a full and thorough understanding, we are going to redefine this definition.
- Sexting is not limited to *sending* alone. Receiving is also often considered sexting in some cases.
- Teenagers are not the only ones who sext, predators and paedophiles, as well as young adults, also engage in it.
- The phrase ‘sexting’ may also cover the sending and receiving of sexually charged and graphic text messages, images and video. In some cases, we can also consider ‘over-the-phone-sex’ as sexting.
Why should I be concerned about my child sexting?
Now that’s out of the way here are some statistics that may worry you.
1. It is starting to become normal (It shouldn’t)
Sexting has become a sort of norm. As of 2012 studies showed that 57% of teens had been asked to send nude photographs. In 2013, as high as 39% of teens had admitted to sexting (that’s almost 2 out of 5 teens!).
In 2016, not less than 28% of teens had already sent nude or semi-nude photographs. And depending on the way you choose to define sexting, the prevalence rate ranges between 9 and 60 percent among teenagers.
2. Sexting is a gateway to other internet issues
You may be thinking “but like isn’t sexting like a harmless way of like expressing sexuality?” Wrong!
Sexting in itself may not seem like a problem, except it is. It can lead to a wide range of issues, from harassment, cyberbullying to sexualisation, as explained in one research.
In a study using 110,380 children aged 12 – 17, 14.8% (16,366 teenagers) had sent or received ‘nudes’ (nude photographs). Out of the children who participated in sexting, 80% of them had forwarded sexts or nude photographs to a third party, often without the sender’s consent.
Thus allowing for sextortion, a situation where sexual predators use nude images to blackmail the person in the photos, either for more graphic images or to do other things.
3. More males than females are actively sexting
Research by Strassberg, Cann & Velarde (2017) on high school students found that about 16% of males (compared to 14% of females) have sent sexts in the last 6 months or are still sending.
41% of males (compared to 31% of females) have received nude photographs within the last 6 months or are still receiving them. While this figure is up to 27% and 65% when we include those who have ever sent a nude image and those who have ever received a naked picture, respectively.
4. There are two categories of sexters: active and passive
In the sexting process, there are usually two types of individuals, the active (those who initiate sexts, request for nude photographs or videos and send them without being prompted) and the passive (those who receive sexts without asking, those who feel pressured to reciprocate, or are generally indifferent).
One does not have to be in a relationship before they sext. Often, as reported in one study, the teenagers exclusively sent nude images to strangers they met on the internet and no one else.
5. Sexting can attract serious permanent legal action:
In the UK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland) and some parts of Europe, an adolescent who sends a sexualised image of themselves is thought to be producing child pornography under the Sexual Offences Act.
Gillesepie (2013) says an adolescent or teenager who takes a sexual photograph and sends it to another is guilty of two offences (creating child pornography, and possession & transfer of child pornographic material) both carrying a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment.
Don’t believe it? Just look at the story of Phillip Alpert who faced 72 different charges and at age 20 is now a registered sex offender.
In addition to the above, there is research to suggest that personality traits such as extraversion, neuroticism and low agreeableness predict the majority of those who engage in sexting.
In case you were wondering, no, we aren’t trying to depress you with these facts. This article is only a wake-up call for us as parents to get involved in our children’s lives, especially in this technology age.