“Sexting” is when a sexually explicit photograph, video or message is sent or received, usually by means of a mobile device. The technology boom which led to the smartphone has introduced new dangers for our children. It is important for parents to understand these dangers in order to address them properly. Sexting at a young age can be harmful in many ways and could end up haunting our children for the rest of their lives.

In her article “The Dangers of Teen Sexting” Raychelle Cassada Lohmann MS, LPCS shares some startling statistics: “New research shows that approximately 20-30 percent of teens have sent and/or received a sext. Plus, according to research those teens who are sexting or propositioned to send a sext are more likely than their peers to have sexual intercourse.”

Most teens don’t see the harm in sexting given the perception “everyone is doing it” and similarly many parents have given up the battle dismissing it as normal teen sexual exploration. Dr Carl Alasko warns this is a serious problem, stating it is well documented that teenagers are not mentally, psychologically or socially equipped to deal with highly sexualized situations and have a very limited ability to understand the short and long term consequences. They need parents to explain the dangers and then impose boundaries to protect their teens and themselves.

So just what are the dangers? They can be divided into two categories: emotional/psychological and legal.

Emotional/Psychological Consequences

Embarrassment Students don’t realize once they send a nude photo to someone there is no guarantee it will remain private with that person. The pictures may be redistributed to one or several others. This results in the student feeling violated and alone.

Humiliation Having private images shared with the public leaves students feeling vulnerable and exposed. This kind of exposure often results in feelings of immense regret and has a negative impact on self esteem.

Loss of Relationships In one impulsive moment, sending a sext can ruin a teen’s reputation causing loss of trust from adults and friendships.

Bullying Sext messages that have become public can lead to bullying, including cyberbullying often with tragic results.

Objectification Taking nude pictures and sending them puts the sender at greater risk of being targeted for sexual exploitation and assault. Others that see the pictures will make assumptions about them based on their willingness to take and send the sexts. It can also open the door for sexual predators.

Depression Suffering from guilt, bullying or embarrassment can lead to feelings of depression and hopelessness. They also may contemplate or attempt suicide.

Legal Consequences

Criminal charges Although the images involved in sexting vastly differ from child pornography, law enforcement officials indicate that sexting involving a minor violates child pornography laws and therefor sending and receiving those images are both considered criminal offenses.

Having to register as a sex offender: In addition to jail time or probation, those convicted of charges related to child pornography must register as a sex offender. Both the reporting required and the stigma attached to this are very burdensome especially for young people as it is something that will follow them the rest of their lives.

Legal consequences for parents: Parents who know their child is sexting and make no attempt to stop it may open themselves up to being charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Additionally, if the victim’s parents choose to sue, they can be subject to a civil suit.

Risk of being removed from the home and placed in foster care: Parents who are aware of sexting and do not intervene expose their family to potential investigation from Child Protective Services. The investigation could result in the child being removed from the home.

Teens need to know that sexting can set off catastrophic chain of events. Do not wait for an incident to occur. Talk to your teen about these dangers and remind them once an image is sent there is no controlling who sees it or who it is sent to. If you become aware that your teen has been participating in this dangerous activity, remain calm. You may discover they are already experiencing some of the consequences listed and the best thing you can do is reassure them they are loved and you will help them.

If you are concerned about your teen’s behavior, Clarity has a great resource for you. Transformed is our program for middle school/high school teens and their parents/guardians, preparing students to make healthy choices throughout their lives. This program is designed to equip adults and teens to have real and relevant discussions based on Biblical Truths and principles. Learn more about the Transformed program.


Source citations and other related articles

Huffington Post: The Dangers of Teen Sexting

VeryWell: 5 Ways Technology Is Impacting Teen Sexuality and Increasing Sexual Bullying

VeryWell: 6 Things Teens Do Not Know About Sexting But Should

Psychology Today:  The Dangers of Teen Sexting

Psychology Today: The Dangers of Teenage Sexting

VeryWell: What Are the Consequences of Sexting?