By Tonya Cherry
Sexting is an example of the sexually saturated society in which we live. Our kids are faced with it in their everyday culture so it is so important that they know that God is their creator and He alone dictates their worth. God’s desire for them to remain pure involves more than just abstaining from sexual physical contact and intercourse. He wants the secrets of their bodies to be only for their spouse. The Bible is very clear in instructing us that sexual intimacy is created for marriage. Part of God’s purpose in this is to protect us, both emotionally and physically. As parents we must find ways to teach our children this Biblical truth to ensure that they do not meet with negative consequences that will affect them in relationships now and in marriage later.
Sexting is “sending sexually explicit messages or images to another person via a cellphone.” It is an activity that has become socially acceptable and often expected of young people. The reasons kids report doing it are feeling pressure, desiring popularity and flirting. Studies show that 1 in 4 teens are involved in sending nude photographs and 1 in 3 have been involved in sending explicit messages (US News, GaurdChild, and ).
Studies show that half of teens say that their parents do not know what they do on their phones or computers which makes the statistics easy to believe. Most often sexting happens when the teen has romantic interest in another but frequently they send them to online friends they have never met. Studies also found that 90% of the young people who receive nudes forward these images to others and that once they are on the internet they will last forever. They are not be private.
Many teens have suffered awful humiliation because of this. I have met young men who have been sent nudes from girls that they did not ask for and have unknowingly opened a naked picture of a girl’s breasts or backside. Girls also receive photos of unknown boy’s genitals as a joke. One of the issues I see most is when boys forward “nudes” of girls and then the girls or their parents want consequences for the boys but the picture was a “selfie” which means it was voluntary self-exploitation and the girl who sent them is actually the distributor.
Sexting can be incredibly harmful to a teen’s sense of worth and can give them an unhealthy perspective on sex. It can also have very serious consequences. It can result in severe discipline in school. It is also important to know that if one or both of the participants are under 18 it is illegal as it is considered child pornography. Child pornography laws prohibit the creating or distributing of an sexually explicit images of children or teens. Teen sexting is a violation of these laws. Click HERE to see how your state prosecutes sexting.
As parents it is very important that you be aware of the prevalence and dangers of sexting and engage in discussions with your adolescent about their experiences with it.
Here are some ways to help prevent your child from becoming involved in sexting:
- Stop thinking “Not my child.” The stats between churched and un-churched kids do not teens make poor choices. Often the least likely kids are the ones who become involved in this.
- Become informed about sexting. Read articles and to your youth pastor or school counselor. Discuss sexting with your kids. Be curious and interested to what they say.
- Educate yourself about technology and apps kids use. Are you aware of the different technologies available to your child in which they can communicate with others? Do you know what apps your kid uses or has on their phone? Have you seen your child’s saved photos?
- Be familiar with your child’s social media. Have you seen any of their snapchat stories? Do you look at your child’s twitter? Do you follow them on Instagram?
- Talk to your kids. Do they know sexting has serious consequences? Do they know the ways to say no when someone pressures them? Is it safe for them to come tell you if this happens to them?
- Pray. Ask God to help you engage in discussions with your child. Ask him to reveal any sexting behavior that your child may be involved with. Ask him for guidance in how to handle your child’s sexting behavior in a way that reflects the Gospel.