You may have heard the term “sexting” but how much do you really know about it? Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, photographs, or videos through some form of technology in digital media, mainly involving cell phones and internet.

Why are teens sexting?

The Kids Help Line website says that flirtatious game playing, peer pressure and competition are common motivations. A survey by Girlfriend magazine found that four in ten girls had been asked to forward a nude photo of themselves. Similarly, another survey found 51% of teen girls had sent sexual messages or images due to male pressure. A majority of teen girls and boys also claimed they sent sexually suggestive content to be “fun or flirtatious”.

What teens may not realize is that there are a lot of consequences associated with sexting that they don’t think about when they hit “send”.

For example, pictures can be shared with others, posted online or elsewhere, they can be exposed to predators, and it can lead to criminal charges and school discipline. Not to mention there are a lot of emotional or psychological effects that can come with it such as depression, humiliation, poor image and self-esteem, anger, and even self-harm or suicide.

So, how can you keep your teens safe from sexting?

  • Teach them about the dangers and consequences of “sexting”
  • Set digital expectations for your teens and monitor their digital activity. Here is an example of a “phone contract” you can do with your teen:
  • Familiarize yourself with technology and current trends
  • Learn the “language of “sexting”, for some common sexting slang and terms check out this website:
  • Maintain open and honest communication with your teens

What are some warning signs that your teen could be engaging in “sexting”?

  • Constantly on the computer or their cell phone
  • Angry or defensive when you ask to see what they are doing or try take it away from them.
  • Sudden reluctance to socialize with friends
  • Disinterest or avoidance of school
  • Dropping out of sports or other recreational activities
  • Extreme sleeping behaviour (either more or less)
  • Abnormal nail biting or hair pulling
  • Abnormal changes in mood and/or behaviour