Our lives these days are intertwined with our digital devices, for good or for ill. That includes adolescent romantic and sexual relationships of all kinds — happy, tragic, mutual, one-sided, healthy, abusive. And experts say that rather than being shocked to find that kids are sexting, we should instead be talking about it from an early age, just as we should about other aspects of their developing sense of their sexual identities. Her advice to parents is to start talking about sexting — as with so many topics — younger than you think you need to. She suggested that for younger children, the conversations could be simple and could be put in the context of other absolute rules. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show decreasing rates of sexual activity among high school students over the period from to , with the prevalence of having ever had sexual intercourse down from But if early sexual activity is decreasing, though still highly prevalent, digital sexual activity is probably — and not surprisingly — becoming more common. In the new study, researchers looked at data from 39 studies of people under 18 sending and receiving sexually explicit images, videos and messages.
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But for teens who do sext, there are both psychological and legal risks, especially if coercion is involved and the images wind up being distributed beyond their intended audience. Sexting is certainly not just a teen issue, but these tips are specifically for teens and parents of teens. Scroll down for tips for both parents and teens. There are also cases where the teen is responding to peer pressure, bullying or even threats. In rarer cases, adults solicit images from teens. Possible consequences : The consequences of sexting can range from nothing at all to extremely serious.
Be sure your teen knows the risks of sexting
Sheri Madigan and her research team wanted to know the prevalence of sexting behavior sharing of sexually explicit images and videos through technological means among youth. Between and , they conducted a meta-analysis, looking at 39 different studies about sexting that included , young people from all over the world, including the United States. Studies indicate that sexting has been on the rise among teens while teen sex has declined.
A lot of parents and schools warn teens to avoid sending nude photos, lest they fall into the wrong hands or be used against them if a relationship goes south. In practice, this often translates to asking girls not to send pictures to boys, since research shows that boys are four times more likely to pressure girls to send sexts than vice versa. This is clearly a flawed approach if we want to protect kids — not to mention sexist. A key victory of the MeToo movement has been to shine a bright and unforgiving light on the rampant sexual abuse and harassment that women face. But to effectively change a culture where men set the rules and women are expected to comply, we have to start in adolescence—when love and sex are new and exciting, but also unfamiliar and uncomfortable. We need to teach teenage girls to place more value on their own desires and expectations, while teaching teenage boys to see love and sex not as just as milestones of a masculinity, but as a way of connecting with another human being.