Adding Sexting to “THE TALK”

Sexting, sending sexy texts or photos, was not part of my life growing up. When I was a teen, sending a sexually suggestive photo would require taking a photo, dropping the film off at a drugstore, waiting several days, picking up the developed pictures and giving the photo in person. Today, teens can easily take a suggestive photo and send it off in less than a minute.

A recent article in Pediatric & Adolescent Medical reported that more than a quarter of teens surveyed sent a naked picture of themselves to another teen, and more than half have been asked to send one. Why are teens sending these pictures? The Pew Internet & American Life Project found that teens sext to show off, entice someone, show interest in someone, or prove commitment. Sexting is a teen reality and parents do need to include it in their talks about sex.

Amy Lang, from Birds and Bees and Kids, is an expert on how to talk with kids about these important, but sometimes uncomfortable subjects. Amy has developed a series scripts for parents. She organizes her talks by starting with the Facts, Concerns, Values, and ending with Expectations.

Below is a simple script on sexting using Amy’s formula. Most of the information is from her new book Say What?! The Birds And Bees For Progressive Parents – What To Say And How To Say It! Amy Lang, MA © 2012. This script is not meant to be comprehensive or perfect. Parents will want to customize it to include their own values and expectations.

Talking about Sexting

Facts:

  • Sexting is the sharing, creating and forwarding of sexually suggestive texts or nearly nude or nude images.

Concerns:

  • Whoever receives this image can easily copy it and send it to people who you don’t trust or wouldn’t want to have access to this image. Once a text like this is sent, it can be forwarded to all kinds of people. Even if you trust the person you sent the picture or text to, they will sometimes forward it to a friend and then it goes out to everyone they know.
  • It is illegal for anyone, even kids, to send these kinds of pictures of children by text or email. It’s considered trafficking child pornography. You can get in a lot of trouble for sending or forwarding this kind of text.

Value:

  • Magazines and shows place a great importance on being sexy. You may feel pressure to act sexy but you are in charge of your own body and image. Sexting gives someone else that control. No one who loves you or cares about you should pressure or demand a text or image that could hurt you.

Expectations:

  • It is better to not send a picture like this to anyone, ever. It can ruin your reputation, be very embarrassing and people may spread rumors about you that probably aren’t true.
  • You should never ask someone to send a sexually suggestive text or picture.
  • If you do receive an image or message, you will not forward or share it with others. We hope if you do receive these images, you will let us know. If not, is there someone you can talk to about it if you weren’t comfortable talking to me?
  • I want you to know that I understand kids make mistakes and do stupid and impulsive things. If you do something like this, please tell me. I might be mad and disappointed, but I would do everything I could to help you figure out what to do.

Parents may also want to talk about appropriate mobile phone usage and discuss possible consequences of sexting together. If you need more information, Amy recommends these other great resources.

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