What is Sexting?
Sexting is the act of sending sexual messages through a phone or over social networks. It can include written messages or photos. As parents, we need to ask ourselves about the legality of this kind of behaviour, especially if our teen is a minor. It’s important to know that there are laws that cover this trend for minors.
Why do Teens Sext?
Adolescence is a time when young people get in touch with their sexuality and feel strong affectionate emotions. A number of teens feel the need to experiment and express their sexuality in different ways. Sexting can be one of the ways they choose to do this. However, this kind of behaviour can have consequences.
When we find out that our teen has been sexting, we may go through several emotions, including anger and concern. It’s legitimate to be worried about discovering this, and there are several options for parents that want to do something about it. We can ask ourselves about our role in this context, especially when we found out by chance or by ‘digging’ through our teen’s phone. In this case, we could feel shame and ask ourselves about what place privacy has in our teenager’s life.
From a Legal Point of View
Laws about sexual consent apply to sexting. Also, according to laws on child pornography, it is forbidden to possess or publish sexual photos, written content, or videos of a person less than 18 years old. This is the case even if the teen themselves published the content and is in possession of it. For example, two 16 year old teens could be criminally accused of possessing this kind of sexual material, even if they are together and they are the only ones in the photos. As for written sexting, there is some room for interpretation if both people are consenting. In these situations, there won’t necessarily be charges, but it will depend on the risks involved and on the context.
How to React
- Have a discussion with your teen about the consequences of sexting.
- Learn about the context around this practice.
- Educate your teen about the fact that any digital and virtual materials could quickly get out of hand and end up where they don’t want it. For example, the photo they sent by phone could very quickly be shared on social networks and end up on the Internet without them knowing about it.
- Supervise the use of electronic devices (computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.) by restricting how long they can be used. In some cases, we can also give ourselves the opportunity to ask, or even demand, that electronic devices not be allowed during a teen’s private time when going to bed, or ask them to give us their passwords, for example. These approaches will be more or less available depending on the teen’s age and psychological development.
- Tell your child about the consequences and legal aspects of sexting, tell them about your fears, and supervise the usage of new technologies depending on their maturity and personal development.