A look at the serious consequences of what many consider an innocent game.
The phenomenon of sexting is constantly increasing among Millenials and even Gen-Xers. This type of online exhibitionism often starts as a seemingly innocent activity among adolescents.
Not long ago dating and engaged couples still sent handwritten “love letters” to express their affection. But with the evolution of technology, sexting may substitute for these notes as a way of showing affection, regardless of the possible consequences. Probably the most frequent use of sexting among young people is for another purpose: sheer fun, to gain attention and popularity or, among girls, to provoke the interest of a guy they’d like to date.
For any readers unfamiliar with the term, sexting is, of course, a combination of "sex" and "texting" and means sending sexually provocative pictures of oneself or friends via cell phone, computer or other electronic devices.
It typically can start when teens decide to send a sexually provocative photo to the boy or girl they like, trusting the recipient to show the photo to no one else. But who among them can resist sharing their trophy photo? In no time, the images are transmitted from one person to 100 others and then to the general public on the Internet. For all but the most exhibitionistic teens, mortification quickly ensues.
According to experts, the causes of this phenomenon range from family neglect to greater access to technological resources without the control and guidance of parents, a situation that threatens teens who do not fully grasp what it means to upload onto the web or send intimate photos or videos electronically.
What can we do as parents?
Some tips to guide kids with regards to this fad:
- Educate them about the dignity of their body and their overall integrity.
- Show them the consequences of this type of practice.
- Build their self-esteem. A boy or girl with self-esteem and a good sense of identity would not be tempted to sext..
- Teach them the importance of not reproducing or forwarding these messages if they receive any.
- Create a bond of trust with your kids so that they will communicate assertively and they will contact you first if they’re in need of help.
- Guide kids toward the responsible use of technology and explain the risks associated with it (as in, no chat rooms and no personal contact information on their Facebook page which could invite a pedophile to befriend and locate them). If you are going to give your child a cell phone, explain what they can and cannot do with it and remind them it is a privilege they will lose if the terms of their use are violated.
- Do not completely restrict them from using technology. Curiosity will only lead kids to seek the information through friends and in irresponsible ways. However, be sure the best parental filters are in place on any home computers and smart phones.
- Place computers in conspicuous places in the home, such as the living room or family room, where kids can be supervised and won’t take a chance on getting caught looking at inappropriate sites.
Educating in love
The best way to develop our children’s integrity is to talk to them about the implications of using sexuality as an object of pleasure without considering all the repercussions, both immediate and long-term (e.g., distorting the true meaning of love).
Parents, pastors, youth ministers and teachers should renew their efforts to teach adolescents that love and respect for others is essential to understanding the meaning of human sexuality. Adolescence is a stage of life when emotions can overcome reason and the will, and lead to irresponsible behavior. The parents’ task is to promote sexuality based on the dignity of the person, which begins with respect for our bodies and those of others. A sexuality lived from this perspective can lead to fulfillment and joy in marriage through the understanding that sexual intimacy is the expression of true and total self-giving love.