Infographic: Teen Sexting Stats

Teen sexting is a difficult topic. In a perfect world, you start talking to your kids early – before they ever have a connected device – and warn of the risks associated with sexting. And the risks are numerous:

  • Risk that racy photos will be made public
  • Risk that the relationship will end, or never materialize, without knowing what will happen to the pics
  • Risk that real emotional damage will be done after the fact
  • Risk of criminal prosecution

Thankfully, it appears that police and prosecutors have been less likely of late to press charges against teens in cases of consensual sexting. The child pornography laws have not caught up with reality yet. Still, that doesn’t mean teen sexting is a good idea though.

Unfortunately some teens, especially some who are in committed monogamous relationships, are going to sext no matter what the parents do. That doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t be talking about it – just the opposite. These days, many teens view sexting as “normal”, even though the idea of it makes parents cringe.

Start talking today. Check out the infographic below from Intella Blog and Vound Software as a template for how you can approach the topic with your kids. Remember that this isn’t a one-time conversation. Keep it going as your kids age and circumstances change.

Permanent Picture: Teen Sexting (And What Parents Should Do About It) (via Intella Blog)

Permanent Picture: Teen Sexting (And What Parents Should Do About It)

 

 

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Study: Teens, Pornography and Sexting

First off, we’d like to say that we don’t think pornography overall is a bad thing. It’s a bad thing for young internet users but we’ll leave that up to parents to decide how young is too young. It’s bad in lots of circumstances but banning it altogether is not the answer.

sextingSexting isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, but it is bad in most cases for teens (and younger kids in all cases) and is illegal in most places.

As soon as your teen or tween has either internet access or a smartphone, him encountering porn either by seeking it out or accidentally is a real issue. According to a new UK survey titled “I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it…”, 28% of 11-12 year olds had viewed pornography. And the “accidentally” thing is real – more kids see online porn for the first time accidentally than by seeking it out on purpose.

The survey covers both pornography and sexting. If you’re the parent of a teen or tween with internet access YOU SHOULD TAKE A LOOK AT THE SURVEY HERE.

Normally, we’d take a bunch of other key stats out of the survey and give you our thoughts, but the study used a pretty small sample size for some of the questions so we don’t want to stick a stake in the ground around any one stat. Plus, depending on how the survey was conducted, we don’t think the kids would necessarily answer honestly. We suggest you look at the survey because if your teen has internet access, you should assume that he or she will see pornography, and may be or become involved in sexting, and you should be talking about it.

The topics are difficult ones, and if you’re having trouble getting started, here are some things to consider:

  • Pornography is unrealistic. Caution your kids that the real world doesn’t work that way.
  • Porn often degrades one of the partners, most often the woman.
  • Porn rarely reflects the practice of safe sex.
  • For parents of younger children, how do you want them to react if they accidentally encounter porn online? Have you told them that?
  • Sexting is becoming more mainstream in romantic relationships, but it doesn’t have to be.
  • Even if consensual sexting, when discovered, isn’t prosecuted as often these days, it still can be.
  • Digital images can spread quickly, and are permanent.

There’s lots to talk about.

 

 

If you are worried that your teen or tween is at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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Teen Sexting Statistics

Teen sexting is in the news a lot lately, and not in a good way. It is a major unintended consequence (we think) if the ubiquity of smartphones. Either that or the smartphone makers saw it coming. Regardless, it is here.

Most parents we talk to are aghast at the thought of their teens sexting, and rightfully so. It’s a risky behavior, and seems too promiscuous or too sexually aggressive to be something that teens should be doing. Nonetheless, they are.

There are three main potential negative outcomes for teens who sext:

Revenge Porn – Obviously if you send someone nudes you aren’t expecting them to share the photos or video with anyone else. You’re probably in a trusting relationship with that person. Things change, though, and having those pics posted publicly can be devastating.

Child Pornography Charges – Laws, and how aggressively they are applied, vary from state to state, but it seems that a week doesn’t go by without police and prosecutors at least considering pressing charges against minors for consensual sexting. Those laws need to change.

Premature sexual activity – There are reports of pre teens sexting at ages that are far too young for anything involving nudity. Is sexting a gateway drug to more intimate activity? We’re not sure, but in some cases it probably is.

iphone-2016The folks at The Sentinel did an excellent roundup this month of teen sexting statistics. Let’s take a look:

  • 39% of teens between 13 and 19 have sent at least one sext message
  • 48% of teens had received at least one sext message

Clearly, some teens are sending sexts to more people that they’re receiving them from.

Of teens who are involved in sexting:

  • 63% said they send the images to a boyfriend or girlfriend (if there’s a “good” kind of sexting, this is it)
  • 28% send them to people they are casually dating
  • 24% send them to someone they only know through online interaction
  • 19% send them to people they don’t know, but encountered through a hookup or messaging app

Of those who have received sext messages, 25% report having forwarded at least some of them to friends. Problematic.

When asked about their reasons for sexting, the teens responded:

  • 49% said it is harmless
  • 39% did it hoping to receive photos in return
  • 32% said it was normal, or that everyone else is doing it
  • 13% said they were pressured into doing it by a boyfriend or girlfriend

As we said above, it can be far from harmless. As for those who feel pressured to do it, we feel that this is yet another parenting challenge, but one that is manageable.

The key to parenting around sexting is conversation, and starting that conversation before a romantic relationship in general or sexting specifically is even a consideration. We recommend talking to your kids about sexting before they are given unrestricted access to an internet connected device. As teens get older, you may not be able to convince them that it is wrong, but you should be able to assure them that they don’t have to do it if they feel pressured, and that they can always come to you for help.

Finally, talk to your kids about not forwarding sext messages that they receive, even if they come in unsolicited. That’s just mean.

 

 

If you want to make sure your teen is not at risk, we can help. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

 

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Talking About Teen and Pre Teen Sexting

One of the toughest pieces of advice that we give to parents is that they need to talk to their kids about sexting before they think they should. It’s tough advice to give because no parent want to think that their 8, 9 or 10 year old would be willing to send provocative photos to anyone.

child iPhoneWe understand that almost no 8-year olds are in a romantic relationship. We get that most 8-year olds would never dream of sending a provocative photo. But, many 8-year olds have a smartphone, so they have the means to do it if they are so inclined.

If you’ve given your child a smartphone or other internet connected device, the onus is on you to warn your child, early and often, of the pitfalls associated with sexting.

A study out of BBC in the UK last week used data from Freedom of Information requests to look at all revenge porn cases filed between April and December of 2015, and the results were shocking.

  • During the 8 month period, 1,160 revenge porn cases were reported
  • In 30% of cases, the victim was a minor under 19 years old
  • In 3 of the cases, the victim was 11 years old
  • 11% of charges resulted in criminal charges
  • Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, Twitter and messaging app WhatsApp, in that order, were the most frequently used networks for posting revenge porn

Since only 11% of the cases resulted in prosecution, and there is no information on how many cases are never reported, this is obviously a big issue, and one that can involve younger kids.

It is awkward and uncomfortable to introduce the topic of sexting and its consequences to kids who haven’t even considered it, but it’s a good idea to do it before it becomes a problem. In fact, it’s your responsibility.

 

 

 

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Age and The Line Between Teen Sexting and Child Porn

If you’ve been paying attention to the news about the current state of teen sexting over the last couple of years, you might have drawn a few conclusions:

  • With almost every teen having a smartphone, the number of teens that appear to be sexting has gone through the roof
  • When sexting images get handed off to friends in a school setting, the odds of being found out go up dramatically
  • When the original sexting occurred between two consenting teens, prosecutors tend to opt for a slap in the wrist, even when the possession and transmission of images constitutes child porn by the strict definition

teen-cell-phoneThe conclusion of a recent Denver Post article on the subject can be summarized here:

“[We have witnessed a] predictable shift in U.S. policy about sexual images of youth: We are not interested in prosecuting sexting teenagers in criminal courts, and we’ve separated this stuff from what we call child pornography.”

We agree. It is impossible given the technological change that has taken place that when child pornography laws were written, they contemplated two teens in a romantic relationship voluntarily sharing intimate images.

The article goes on to speculate on a very interesting point: What happens to a teen once he is no longer a minor, and there are pictures of underage minors on his devices, apps or social accounts (or hers)? If a 17-year old and a 15-year old share pictures, it might not be a big deal legally. If an 18-year old continues to possess those pictures of a 15-year old, will authorities look the other way?

It’s worth thinking about. When your teen turns 18, will he voluntarily delete the old images that now might get him in trouble? Will you have the fortitude to have a frank talk about what images or videos might be in his or her possession? As uncomfortable as that conversation might be, we think it’s one worth having. The prospect of possession of those old photos and video being treated more harshly if found is a scary one.

Of course, the odds that your teen’s phone or social media accounts will be scrutinized by law enforcement decreases with age at some point. It appears to us that most teen sexting cases are outed by those images causing a disturbance in middle or high school.

We’re not saying that we think teen sexting is okay; it’s very risky and should be avoided. We just think that parents should keep in mind that as their teens become adults, their media inventory might pose a bigger risk.

 

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UK Lawmakers Call for Changes to Sexting Laws

There’s a very refreshing proposal being put out this week by the UK’s bipartisan All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children (APPGC). Simply put, they want the police to have tools and discretion to prevent minors involved in consensual sexting from being charged criminally or have the incident go on the minor’s permanent record.

UK-teen-sextingIt makes sense to us. Whether parents like it or not, sexting is increasingly part of the courting process. We don’t argue that it is correct, or wise for kids under 18 (or adults, necessarily) to be sending nude pictures or video, but surely these consensual incidents aren’t what lawmakers had in mind when the current child pornography statutes were drawn up – on either side of the pond.

According to the APPGC:

“In cases such as these, police should have the discretion to refer the child to another agency for support – their school, social services or counselling, for example – without it forming a permanent part of the record held against the name and undermining their future.”

At ThirdParent, we want to put the power back in the hands of parents. If a consensual sexting allegation surfaces, surely parents are better equipped and positioned to educate and urge better behavior than are the police. And as the APPGC argues, the impact that such charges can have on future education and employment opportunities is significant.

If your son or daughter sends a private, ill-advised picture to a romantic interest, and that picture somehow becomes public, does that warrant full prosecution by the police and the courts? Of course not. As on online commenter on Schools Improvement site’s story said:

“Just shows how rotten our system has become that legislators have to beg the executive to stop doing something insane.”

Less insanity, please. Parents, before you get your kids that first cell phone, please talk to them about the risks of sexting. It’s never too early.

 

 

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Is Snapchat Safe for 10, 11 and 12 Year Olds?

Snapchat-logoThere is no data available about how many underage users are on Snapchat. That in itself is a problem, but it’s part of the landscape. If you want to lie about your age when you sign up for a social site, you can. In our experience, any kid with a phone can figure it out.

Snapchat’s stated age limit is 13, but since it is the social app with by far the youngest user group – fully 45% of users are under 25 vs. 20% for the other major social networks and apps – we can assume that many kids under 13 are using it. Is it safe for kids? Let’s take a look.

How Snapchat works is pretty simple: users take a photo or short video (a “snap”), annotate it with text or doodles, set the timer for how long the content will be viewable before it “disappears”, then send it to a friend or group. It is very in-the-moment engaging, but there are issues:

Pictures don’t really disappear – Snapchat has backed off the claim that pictures disappear, but users have been carrying on as if they do. What are the risks?

  • According to one forensics firm, deleted pictures are saved in a hidden file in one’s phone. Pictures and video can be retrieved by someone with the correct skill set.
  • The recipient can take a screen shot, although the sender will be notified if she does
  • If the recipient has a jailbroken iPhone, he can save all incoming snaps without notifying the sender
  • The recipient can take a photo of the snap with another phone or camera
  • Unopened snaps are saved on Snapchat’s servers for 30 days

If someone does manage to get a picture that your child sent, it can be posted anywhere online, with or without your child’s knowledge. If your child is not sending or receiving anything untoward, the above issues really don’t matter much, but risks are risks.

No parental controls – Even if you use software downloaded to your child’s phone to monitor his activity, you won’t be able to see what he is sending or receiving via Snapchat.

Location data – In order to use certain Snapchat features, including Filters and Our Stories, users must opt in to sharing their location data. If your tween has Snapchat “friends’ who are actually strangers, this is a risk.

Who are your friends? – When you first download the app, you can build a list of Snapchat friends from you phone’s address book. For the average tween, this shouldn’t be a problem. We have, however, seen far too many examples of young users posting their Snapchat username online, either in forums or in their Instagram or Ask.fm profiles or feeds. This type of friend collecting can be very dangerous.

Questionable behavior is seen as acceptable – Young kids learn by example, and it’s no secret that while Snapchat is not only, or mostly used for sexting, it is the go-to app for sending risqué pics to a love interest. A study published last year found that 1 in 4 adolescents aged 12 – 14 are involved in sexting. Can the 10 – 12 year old crowd be far behind?

In Snapchat’s case the app is not the problem; user behavior is. It’s not much different from other social apps. From the document, “A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat”:

“…there’s no need to panic every time you hear a media report about something awful happening in social media. The reason the news media cover awful situations is because they’re rare. How often do you see headlines about planes landing safely?”

That’s true to a point, but if you are allowing a tween to download and use Snapchat, you are trusting that she is mature enough to keep herself safe from predators and cyberbullies, and to stick to age appropriate behavior. Since that’s a lot to ask of a youngster, we caution parents to wait until kids are older before allowing them to get involved with Snapchat.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

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Is WhatsApp Safe for Teens?

If your teen has friends and a cell phone, and what teen doesn’t, she is probably using a messaging app in addition to or instead of the text messaging client that came installed on her phone. The most popular is Whatsapp-safe-for-teensWhatsApp, with 800 million users globally, although Kik Messenger and Facebook messenger may be more popular in the U.S. Is it safe for teens? That depends.

First of all, according to the app’s Terms of Service, the age limit for WhatsApp is 16, though it is largely ignored. In fact, as of October 2014, 8% of U.S. internet users aged 14 – 17 use WhatsApp, and that number is undoubtedly higher now.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp last year or a hefty $18 billion or so, which might lead one to ask why the age limit for WhatsApp (16) is higher than that of Facebook (13). We believe that the reason is that WhatsApp has more and different risks than Facebook, especially for teens. Let’s take a look at how:

Adult content – On Facebook, there are strict rules about what types of content are permitted; on WhatsApp there are few strict prohibitions (i.e. “Adult content must be identified as such” – we’re not even sure what that means). If you’re hoping that human moderators will protect your teen from inappropriate content on WhatsApp, you’re out of luck.

Predator risk – The playbook for a typical predator often follows the same pattern: find a teen on Facebook or Instagram then send a friend request. After you’re friends with the teen, attempt to establish a rapport (what is referred to as “grooming”) and keep communicating. The next step is usually to move the conversation over to a more private platform, like a messaging app.

Sexting – If your teen wants to send a risqué photo or video, he is going to find a way to do it. Since WhatsApp allows customizable picture or video transmission to any user in your address book, it is certainly an option for sexting.

Private, or maybe not – WhatsApp claims that they do not store messages sent and received on their servers, so your teen might think that once a message is sent, that’s as far as it goes. As with any messaging app, messages can be saved by the recipient and retransmitted or posted online. There is always a risk that they will be around forever, and not private at all.

No password – WhatsApp users are not required to set or use a password for the app, so if one of their friends gets their hands on the phone, and the phone is unlocked, there is a risk that a rogue message can be sent.

While there are some risks to teens using WhatsApp, the app itself is not the problem – what your teen is doing with it may be. As a parent you can start by discussing which messaging options your teen is using, how she is using them and who she is communicating with. If any of it sounds like a risk, take it from there, but by all means understand what you’re dealing with when it comes to keeping your teen safe online.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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What If You Know Your Teens Are Sexting?

My partners and I were discussing teen sexting last week and working out how best to advise parents in certain real life scenarios. Obviously with issues as tricky as this one, advice from us or anyone might not fit the exact circumstances at hand.

We agree on a couple of basic principles: (a) the wellbeing of the teens involved are the most important factor, and (b) that if a situation can be resolved without involving the police, it should be.

We decided to solicit the opinions of some parents and a few parenting professionals to see what other wisdom could be brought to bear. We posted the following on an Internet Safety group page on Facebook and on Reddit in the r/AskParents sub.

Hi folks,

We’re looking for feedback on something. We all know that teen sexting is a big issue these days, unfortunately/especially when the police get involved. We’d like to crowdsource some ideas about best practices when the following occur:

  1. If a teen tells a parent that his friend sent nudes to a girlfriend, and he thinks/knows that she shared them with others, what should the parent do?

  2. If a teen tells a parent that she shared nudes with her boyfriend, and she thinks/knows that he shared them, what should the parent do?

We got some great, thoughtful responses – it is funny how well the internet works sometimes. The following were edited slightly for clarity.

On putting the teens first:

“Damage control and the well being of the youth involved is paramount…. As we know teens make mistakes and these errors need to be explained and dealt with suitable to the age and maturity of the child.”

“I’d explain the laws surrounding production and distribution of child pornography and other under-age-sex related crimes, then I would do everything in my power to let other kids (and probably parents) know too so that the pictures get destroyed without the police getting involved. A charge of something like that will label someone a sex offender and pretty much destroy someone’s chances of getting a good, easy, high-paying job, and that’s not fair.”

“Since we are discussing teenagers – it is age appropriate – that these situations could be covered in the daily chats of offline parenting. My advice is – don’t forget your daily offline chats today and every day – even if they are only for a few minutes.”

On your involvement of the other parents:

“The parents should discuss what their responsibility is to other parents…”

This is an important point. If the teen whose nudes were compromised is not your teen, you definitely should consider telling those parents as soon as possible. If the situation were reversed, you’d want to know.

Should you look to the school for help?

“The involvement of the school is still beneficial for support of the teen and for risk management strategies to be put in place upon school return…”

“Whether in school or out this will eventually get there. Kids talk and thrive on drama- I’ve dealt with this too much to [not] know what will happen.”

We’re not so sure whether it is the best idea to involve the school, although the counselors there probably have more experience with it than you do. It may be worth it to ask a counselor for advice if you’re at wits end.

What of the police?

“In both cases, the parents should try to seek the advice of a “friendly” law enforcement person who specializes in this type of case. In [my state], both situations are criminal offenses and if reported to the police, criminal investigation and possible prosecution is inevitable. Most time when situations like these happens, I’d be contacted by either the parents or a friend of the parents for advice. Even though I AM a law enforcement investigator, my main concern is damage control. And that is to determine the extent of the sharing and try to prevent from going viral.”

The response immediately above is from an actual police officer with extensive experience in digital issues. We replied, “I’m very concerned about the idea of bringing the police in or counseling other parents to do so. While I understand their advice could be invaluable, the idea of a police child porn investigation – if it could have been avoided – is terrifying. Is there a way to contact the police for advice (anonymously?) without the possibility of an investigation?” His counter:

“The parents could talk to an investigator and present a “what if” scenario. And it also depends on the investigator’s mindset. Does he/she look at this as just another case [that may require] prosecution? Or is he/she looking out for the well being of the teenagers and their family?”

And finally, another parenting expert weighed in:

“Unfortunately police investigations are initiated (whether we like it or not) due to laws and, especially in the cases of the deliberate act of circulating the sext to cause distress to another. Parents requiring advice may like to call a legal office to gain expert opinion and if a situation has occurred, maybe introduce a third party to be involved as a ‘go between’ in speaking with the other parent, especially due to upset on both sides as its extremely emotional for all involved.”

In summary, most of the time it makes sense to:

  • Make sure the teens involved are safe and know that they have your support
  • Move quickly to stop the spread of the photos if they have been leaked
  • Involve the other parents as soon as possible
  • You may want to look to the school for resources, but don’t expect answers
  • If you can find a trusted police officer, she may be able to help, but understand that under some circumstances (perhaps out of your control) an official investigation may result

By all means, talk to your teens about sexting early and often – before it becomes an issue.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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Teen Sexting Charges Rock Cape May NJ Schools

19 boys aged 17 and under and one 18-year old teen were charged this week in South New Jersey’s Cape May County on allegations that they had been distributing nude and partially nude pictures of female, underage students via text message and social media.

The teens have been charged with invasion of privacy, which could come with a 2-year term in teen detention for the younger boys and three to five years in prison for the 18-year old.

A sexting scandal involving this many students would be newsworthy under any circumstances, but in this case at least one parent claims that the girls involved were at least partially to blame. ABC news interviewed one parent who declined to be named, after her 14-year old son had been charged. She offered the following:

“The girls know that the boys trade [the nude photos] and it’s kind of a game that the girls want to be involved in. They need to step back and really take a full look at this. The girls are just as responsible as the boys.”

While none of the females have been charged at this time, we are certainly not going to lay blame on any of the victims, but it might come as a wakeup call to some.

It’s is common knowledge that some teens are sexting. It is also common knowledge that some teen boys are likely to share sexy photos that they’ve received with their friends, particularly after a breakup.

Obviously if teens don’t engage in sexting, none of this will happen in the first place. Teens in relationships tend to make rash decisions, though.

If there were in fact girls who were submitting nudes so that they could be involved in the game, they would be well served to think long and hard about the possible consequences. If the females had been charged on child porn charges, their lives might have changed forever – a fate worse than the embarrassment of having a risqué photo out there in cyberspace.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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