We wrote about dangers of social networks like Tinder and Snapchat on Thursday. These applications that your teenager can download from internet are mostly used for dating and sharing photos. But although this all might seem innocent to you at first, these networks have seen its fair share of misuse and can put your child directly under threat of cyber bullying. In this text, however, we will not focus specifically on Tinder, Snapchat and other similar social networks, but on the reality of sexting, that comes with the use of mobile technology.
Parenting in today’s world involves more hurdles than ever before, particularly with the growth and prominence of new media. Raising children in this increasingly digital society requires awareness of more aspects of life than needed by parents of previous generations. New issues – ones often without precedent – threaten today’s youth. Take cell phones, for instance. Twenty years ago, most people did not own one. But now, mobile use is on the rise in all sectors of society across the globe, and nowhere is this more evident than with preteens and teenagers, who often seem to be living life with their phones permanently attached to their hands.
Through mobile phones, teens have new avenues of communication that aren’t monitored (or at least aren’t constantly monitored) by parents, like a home phone might be. As a result, users may be more likely to experiment away from prying parental eyes and ears, especially when it comes to exploring normal teenage concerns, such as sexuality. A growing problem in this realm is that of sharing sexually explicit material, most commonly images, or “sexting.”
Whether or not your child is engaging in this type of behavior, discussing it with him or her is essential. One quality of a good parent is an informed parent, so use this post to add to your knowledge about the realities of sexting.
Not everyone sexts, but many do because of peer pressure
Contrary to how it may appear, teens involved in sharing explicit images are in the minority, and often photos are shared between romantic partners. That being said, the peer pressure to be a part of the sexting culture can be intense, and often it is because of the pressure that teens, particularly girls, become involved.
Communicating with your child regarding sexting is more important than ever, particularly as it seems that peer pressure is the prime ruling force behind sexting. It is important that they know they have your support and that they understand that sharing nude images is not something everyone does. When peer pressure sets in, particularly during the vulnerable teenaged years, the actual truth can be difficult for a child to discern from what she perceives as the truth.
Both genders sext, but girls fare worse in the end
Although there is a commonly held belief that girls are the ones doing the most sexting, a recent study published by University of Michigan researchers Julia Lippman and Scott Campbell has found that girls and boys are equally likely to send and/or receive explicit images on their phones. The gender difference comes into play in another way: girls are generally judged harshly but boys face almost no negative repercussions. If anything, males may see an increase in their social status. Like many other aspects of society’s view on sexuality, there are still double standards and, for females, it is a lose-lose situation.
In publishing their study in the Journal of Children and Media,Lippman and Campbell didn’t even try for subtlety. They titled it “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”¦ if you’re a girl: Relational and normative contest of adolescent sexting in the United States.”
According to study participants, girls who send explicit images of themselves are often considered “sluts” who have self-esteem issues yet those who do not are just as ostracized, as “stuck up” or “prude.” Society, however, does not censure boys in the same way.
It is easy for sexting to get out of hand
Messages can be kept between the two people originally involved; however, images are often forwarded to and circulated among others: the sender has no way to prevent the receiver from sharing the messages (usually x-rated images of the sender) with other people. It is when there is a breach of trust and images are circulated beyond the intended recipient that they become problematic. Once an image enters cyberspace, it becomes impossible to control who else can view it.
Some teens view sexting as no big deal, whereas others think it is wrong, and then there are those who are focused on the potential consequences, whether it is with their parents, at school, among their peers, or with the law. Parents can ground their children or take away mobile devices, but harassment stemming from sexting tends to happen outside the home, often in schools, where forms of bullying have occurred for generations.
So talk to your preteen or teen and let her know what is really going on with sexting in society. Although teenagers aren’t the only ones sharing explicit images, teens are a particularly susceptible population and are already wading through a hormone-filled soup as they work to discover themselves and assert their individuality.