Sexting is defined by the U.S. court system as “an act of sending sexually explicit materials through mobile phones.” The messages may be text, photo, or video.

In Idaho, sexting can result in charges of creation, possession and distribution of child pornography and crimes against a minor.

On several occasions teens who have sent, received, or forwarded these images have faced child pornography charges—a felony crime.

Despite the possible legal consequences:
The Dangers of Teen Sexting

Why are they doing it?

They may be curious...
Sex creates curiosity, which leads to exploration and experimentation—especially with teens. This is not a new thing and it's completely normal. Teens may be curious as to what others look like naked and also easily aroused by nudity.

They may be pressured...
Peer pressure to participate in sex could be another reason teens are succumbing to sending racy pics of themselves.

Think about it:
If you're a guy and your friends all have sexual photos of girls on their phones, you may feel pressured to do the same; especially if your "guy" friends single you out if you don't.
On the flip side, if you’re a girl and other girls are boasting about sending pictures to their boyfriends you may feel you need to do the same; especially if you feel like "everyone else is doing it."

They may be in love...
Remember your first love? To the love-stricken teen it's easy to cave to the pressure when you think "this is the one." You believe with all of your heart this is the person you're destined to be with for eternity. Dramatic, yeah, but remember those teen years? To you this person is trustworthy and you would do anything, and I mean anything, for them. To the teen who's in need of this type of attention or in need of love and acceptance, he/she may give in and do something he'll/she'll later regret.

They may not be thinking...
There's a special part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (aka the CEO of the brain) that is responsible for problem solving, impulse control, and weighing out options. Unfortunately for teens, this area of the brain is not fully developed. In fact, it doesn't fully mature until the early to mid-twenties. So, while we expect our teens to know better, the fact is there are some physiological reasons teens think they're invincible.

What are the emotional and legal consequences? 

Emotionally sexting can take a toll on a person, especially if it backfires and gets into the wrong hands. Teens have a unique ability to feel like they're invincible. So, even though they may know that sexting is wrong, they don't think they're going to get caught.
Another emotional catch is that sexting may lead to bullying for the teen whose photos have been solicited to others. This creates a harsh world for a teen to live. Oftentimes they don't reach out for help because of embarrassment and disappointment, fear of making it worse, or fear of getting into trouble. To many teens they may feel like they're caught in a trap with no way out.
Also, sexting can compromise reputations. Not just social reputations but digital reputations can take a hit. Once a photo is out, there's no way of knowing how many people have saved it, tagged it, shared it, etc. Unfortunately the photo could re-surface years after it was taken and posted. Plus, more and more college reps and prospective employers are seeking information about candidates and they're doing this online. What they find online could sway their decision about whether or not the person lands the job or gets accepted into the school of his/her dreams.


[In Idaho, sexting can result in charges of creation, possession and distribution of child pornography and crimes against a minor.]

How do you protect your teen?

It's important that parents spend time speaking with their teens about sex. Young people need to know that it's okay to have desires and feelings. Talk to your teens about the impact and consequences of acting out sexual desires and how they can stay true to their morals, values and beliefs when faced with adversity. Also, discuss the consequences of acting out sexually (pregnancy, STDs, etc.). Please don't treat sex as a taboo topic in your household; rather, create a safe environment for your teen to ask questions and have an open dialogue. Awkward? Yeah at first it may feel awkward to you and your teen to discuss sex, but don't let that keep you from having the discussion. The more you talk, the easier it'll become and the weirdness will begin to wear off.

It is important that parents are in the loop with what their teens are doing with technology. So many things have Wi-Fi Access nowadays. Devices such as personal computers, video game consoles, hand held gaming devices, Smartphone's, tablets, e-readers and even digital audio players can connect to a network and create an opportunity for a teen to make a poor decision. Technology has pros and cons. Unfortunately, some of the cons carry some hefty consequences.  

In conclusion, with 20-30 percent of today’s teens sexting it is important that we educate our teens on the dangers associated with it. On the brighter side, we still have about 70-80 percent of teens making good decisions when it comes to sexting. In my experience as a counselor one of the things that I love to hear from a teen is "I have a good relationship with my parents." or "I can tell my mom/ dad anything." That’s an awesome statement to hear from a teen. Parents, please reach out to your teens and create an environment that allows them to let you into their life...

Sexts by Teens:
Sent to:
  • 60% boyfriend/girlfriend
  • 21% someone they had a crush on
  • 19% ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend
  • 14% best friend
  • 18% friends other than their best friend
  • 11% someone they don’t know
  • 4% classmates
  • 14% someone else
Received from:
  • 75% received from boyfriend/girlfriend
  • 49% someone they had a crush on
  • 20% ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend
  • 20% best friend
  • 23% friends other than best friend
  • 18% someone they don’t know
  • 13% someone else
Why sent:
  • 43% were asked
  • 40% to have fun
  • 21% to impress someone
  • 18% to feel good about themselves
  • 8% to try to date someone
  • 4% as a joke
  • 3% to make someone jealous
  • 1% as a dare
  • 29% some other reason
What happened:
  • 6% report that photo was forwarded to an authority figure and they got in trouble
  • 9% say that the photo was posted online where many people could see it
  • 10% say that the person they sent it to threatened to send it to somebody else
  • 12% accidentally sent the picture to the wrong person
  • 13% were made fun of by the person that they sent the photo to
  • 30% say the photo was forwarded to someone they didn’t want to see it
17 percent of sexters share the messages they receive with others, and 55 percent of those share them with more than one person.

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