PARENTS BEWARE: Sexting Among Teens Has Potentially Severe Consequences

Teens texting on cellphones is common in every town across the country. A more troubling cell phone activity is “sexting,” which more and more teens are participating in. Sexting is the transmission of sexually suggestive material via text messages. Many “sexts” involve teenagers sending nude or semi-nude cell phone pictures of themselves.

A July 2012 Pedriatics & Adolescent Medicine study found that as many as a quarter of American teens “sext.” Further, an earlier, 2008 survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 20% of teens admitted to texting nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves.

Most teens fail to think about what will happen to the naked picture they sexted to their boyfriend when they break up? Often times, the picture is passed all around school, forwarded to many other people, and maybe even posted on the Internet. Such an embarrassing occurrence can be devastating to a teen’s self-confidence and social life.

Even more alarming, a sext could lead to criminal charges. Sexting that involves nude photos of teenagers is considered child pornography in many states, including Ohio. As a result, the taking, sending, receiving, or distributing of such images can result in harsh criminal penalties. In the worst case scenario, sexting could land teens in jail, force them to register as a sex offender for the rest of their lives, and hurt their future career prospects.

Parents should be aware of the widespread nature of sexting and talk to their teens about the extremely serious social and legal consequences of such behavior.