One of the most disturbing trends I’ve ever encountered is a practice prevalent among teens and young adults called “Sexting.” There’s no way to say this delicately. Sexting is where these young people send nude photos or videos of themselves to their friends through the cell phone’s text messaging system. This probably surprises many of the parents reading this. It certainly surprised me!
We give our kids cell phones with built in digital cameras capable of shooting still photos or movies. Teens today communicate through text messages. I’ve been to functions and observed a group of teenagers sitting around a dinner table and nobody talks to one other. But they’re still communicating by passing text messages along their chain. This type of communication is an entirely different world to me and not one I fully comprehend. However, it’s here to stay.
In 2008, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy surveyed 653 teens and 627 young adults for 9 days between September 25 and October 3. For the purpose of this study, teens are defined as anyone between the ages of 13 and 19. Young adults are between the ages of 20 and 26. The results are startling and eye-opening. You can read the entire survey report yourself by clicking here, but for expediency’s sake, I’ll summarize some of the results.
- 20% of teens and 33% of young adults send/post pornographic pictures/videos of themselves, mostly girls sending to boys
- 39% of teens and 59% of young adults send or post sexually suggestive messages
Most of the teens and young adults admitted to sending suggestive content to their boyfriends or girlfriends. Others admitted to sending the content to those they want to hook up with or only know online. It’s bad enough to be sending this information to boyfriends and girlfriends, but it really breaks my heart to think that our children may be sending the most intimate details about themselves to people they don’t even know.
There’s a whole lot more in the report, but I chose these stats to start you on the road to awareness. If you are parents of a teenager, there is a 1 in 5 chance that your kid has already been involved in this kind of activity and an even greater chance that they know someone who has done this. As far as posting sexually suggestive messages, that’s a 1 in 2.6 chance. Do you know what your kids are doing on their cell phones?
I know many parents send their kids to Christian schools. Don’t think for one minute that this practice doesn’t go on in Christian schools. I’ve learned that the practice is just as pervasive on Christian school campuses as it is anywhere else. The son of a Pastor and missionary friend of mine was caught with porn on his cell phone. He got it from his friends in a Christian school. Principles are now banning cell phone use at school. If a student gets caught using or sometimes even possessing a cell phone on campus, they are suspended.
What are we supposed to do as parents?
Until something serious happens, we may never begin to think about applying parental controls to cell phones. All major wireless carriers offer some level of usage controls for cell phones. When you shop with your teen for a cell phone, make sure it is compatible with the usage control services offered by your wireless provider. Not all cell phones are compatible, make sure to know what you're shopping for and don’t let your teenager talk you into something that doesn’t offer the protection just because it’s trendy or fashionable. The services vary by carrier and will add additional cost to your monthly bill. You’ll sleep better at night knowing that the small amount you spend during the year will help protect your priceless children?
Remember something else, kids who practice sexting are breaking child pornography laws. If you discover your teen has received inappropriate photos on their phone, don’t hesitate to discuss the matter with the other kid’s parents or if need be, call the CyberTipline and report the crime.