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)

 

 

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.

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

 

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

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.

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

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

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.

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

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

More On Teen Sexting Statistics

While the title of this post is “More on teen sexting statistics”, it could as easily be called, “Why you should talk to your kids about sexting now.”

When parents fret about teen sexting, or when stories involving teen sexting (and the police) hit the mainstream media, the issue at hand is often the act of sending nude selfies to a significant other. As such, it may be tempting for parents to put off the talk about sexting until the teen is actually dating, or close to it. That could be a mistake.

teen-sextingThe definition of sexting is actually quite broad: “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone”. The breadth of the definition is significant because while most parents correctly assume that it is unlikely their pre teen is sending explicit selfies to anyone, some form of gateway behavior might be taking place. You might think of it as digital flirting. Our message here – it is a good idea to start talking about sexting well before it might be taking place.

On to the teens: According to sexting research from the University of Texas, in which the researchers interviewed 948 students between the ages of 14 and 19, (the data is three years old but very comprehensive) actual teen behavior shakes out as follows:

  • 28% of teens reported having sent explicit pictures of themselves via text or email, evenly split between males and females
  • 68% of girls had been asked to send a sext, vs. 42% for boys
  • 46% of boys admitted to having asked a girl to send a sext, vs. 21% of girls
  • 27% of girls were “bothered greatly” by such requests, vs. 3% of boys
  • The peak age for being asked to send a nude selfie is between 16 and 17

As of three years ago, it was not unlikely for the average teen to have engaged in sexting, or at least have been propositioned, and yes, peer pressure from the opposite sex can be at play. Given the rise of smartphones, the numbers are probably higher today.

What about the younger kids?

internet-watch-foundationNew research from the Internet Watch Foundation and Microsoft conducted in the second half of 2014 and released this month examined “youth-produced sexual content”, and looked at 3,803 examples of explicit photos that had made their way online.

  • 17.5% of content depicted children aged 15 years or younger
  • 14% of the content featured children 13 or younger
  • 7% of the content featured children 10 or younger
  • 93% of the content depicting children aged 15 or younger featured girls

While it is probably not happening to your tween, forewarned is forearmed. Start early. We recommend that before a child has unrestricted access to a smartphone or computer, parents have a serious talk about the risks of sexting, and repeat that talk often.

 

 

 

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.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

Snapchat’s New Sexting Message is Really for Parents

If you’re the parent of teens, you may have seen a headline in the past week such as, “Snapchat tells teens: Keep your clothes on.” You may even have read the article.

snapchatThese articles were prompted by an update to Snapchat’s Safety Center, which includes the following admonishment for teens:

“Keep it legal. Don’t use Snapchat for any illegal shenanigans and if you’re under 18 or are Snapping with someone who might be: keep your clothes on!”

We can’t argue with the message, nor do we want to; the problem is that it won’t do any good unless parents are involved.

Think of it this way: If Snapchat told your teen to take his clothes off, would he? Nope. If Snapchat told your teen to hold her breath until she turned blue, would she. Again, no.

Like much of corporate communication, this was written not to inform the reader, but rather to protect the writer. Snapchat can hold themselves out to the community at large as having done something material to curb the transmission of underage nudity. Mission not accomplished, in our opinion.

There is one thing positive that this may end up accomplishing. Snapchat has sent a clear message to parents that they know teen users are sending nudes to other users, and the downside is significant enough that Snapchat is concerned about repercussions.

Inappropriate teen behavior of almost any type is first and foremost a parenting issue, and parents need to step up their game.

  • Is your teen using Snapchat? You should know the answer to this.
  • Have you talked to your teen (or tween!) about the risks of sexting? If you haven’t yet, you should.
  • At what age? Well, if your child has a smart phone, the risks of sexting should be something you have covered by now.

Snapchat, while being problematic because it is one of the “in” messaging platforms and is commonly used for sexting, is not the problem. If your teen is inclined to send risqué pics, there are plenty of other options to make that happen. That being said, Snapchat is often the medium of choice because people believe the pictures self-destruct, even though they don’t necessarily do so.

Parents can use the Snapchat safety update as a reason for having the sexting discussion with the kids. If you’ve had it already, you can have it again. In our experience, parents think nothing about warning about the risks of drugs, or drinking and driving, over and over again. It’s time that sexting got the same level of attention.

 

 

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.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

 

What’s Worse Than Teen Sexting?

The news headlines have been brimming lately with reports of the police getting involved after evidence surfaces that teens have been sexting. Such evidence often shows up at schools, and since school officials are very wary of dealing with possible crimes (child pornography), it’s a pretty straightforward response to refer the incident and students on to the local police.

Our position on teen sexting cases has been consistent (for cases where the sexting is consensual and minors are of the age of consent):

  • Teen sexting is a bad idea. We say this not on moral grounds – we leave that up to parents – but rather because the range of outcomes for all participants is almost exclusively negative
  • Child pornography laws as written are dreadfully behind the times. They weren’t crafted at a time when consensual teen sexting was “a thing”
  • Teens who voluntarily take and send a sext to a partner should not be prosecuted under such laws
  • Parents, not police or schools, should deal with consensual teen sexting issues

Thankfully, of late the courts have pursued few if any such cases to the full extent of the law. That may change, but for the most part, courts and police have used good judgment and stopped short of throwing the book at teens who are caught sexting.

snapchatAn incident in Mauldin South Carolina this month, related to sexting but certainly not the same, has resulted in two Mauldin High School seniors being suspended from school and football, and facing criminal charges, after one of them allegedly took a picture of another player’s nude butt and sent it via Snapchat. The recipient then allegedly sent the picture to a number of people via text message, and the whole thing has gotten thoroughly out of control.

The teens have been charged with aggravated voyeurism, which carries with it a fine of $500 – $5,000 and up to 10 years behind bars. The courts’ reaction to this case could be very different than would be the case for a straightforward sexting incident.

The key is that the picture was taken without the subject/victim’s knowledge or permission. That is invasive, and while the teens in this case claim to have done it as a joke, that might not matter.

If the prosecutor or judge here decides that this was a serious invasion of privacy, without the victim’s knowledge and against his  wishes, and that the intent was to humiliate or harm him, chances are this case will not be swept under the rug.

We agree that the boys were probably joking, and hope that this case is resolved quietly, but this we’d like to use this as a stern warning for parents. Of course, talk to your teens about the risks of sexting, but also be sure to warn them that there are some acts (even jokes!) that may be viewed by the courts as being much more serious than plain old sexting. This may be one of them.

 

 

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

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

6 NJ Teens Face Child Porn Charges After Sexting Outbreak

Six teens from sleepy North Jersey towns including Little Falls and West Orange are hoping that an upcoming family court appearance will keep them from facing the worst-case scenario after what sounds like widespread sexting got out of hand.

In the case, six teens ranging in age from 14 – 17 have been charged with second-degree distribution of child pornography and fourth-degree possession of child pornography.

The sexting itself may have been going on for a while, but the investigation apparently began when it was reported that one teen had hacked into another’s Kik account (a messaging app), and distributed inappropriate photos to others.

The laws are currently behind the times when it comes to cases such as this. According to Brooklyn attorney Carrie Goldberg:

“The child porn laws didn’t anticipate selfies – and teen-to-teen sexting – at all,” Goldberg said. “Youth can be thoughtless and cruel – and you add a cell phone, and it can be a recipe for disaster.”

If the kids are charged as it stands now, those facing distribution of child porn charges could get up to 10 years on those counts alone if found guilty. Hopefully it won’t get that far, as the cases are headed to family court where a judge could go easy on them.

When we originally commented on the case in April, only two teens had been charged. The police investigation that followed including examining the teens’ phones, one of which had 39,000 messages on it.

It’s not just the laws that are behind the times when it comes to teen sexting – parents are too. It’s a reality these days that if teens are dating or hanging out with members of the opposite sex, some level of sexting may be going on. We can’t be sure that the inappropriate pictures were actually obtained by hacking a Kik account, but private accounts can be compromised. It’s more likely that the teen was sloppy with his password, or shared the pics with someone then claimed to have been hacked when things got out of hand.

Parents can play defense by talking to teens openly about the risks associated with sexting before it starts happening, and updating the conversation with frequent reminders, perhaps referencing cases like this one.

 

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

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.

Is Teen Sexting Now Part of Normal Courtship?

It might be, but that doesn’t let parents off the hook.

An expansive new study was published by La Trobe University in Australia this week, titled National Survey of Secondary Students and Sexual Health, and it is causing a number of media commentators and industry experts to dust off their opinion about whether teenage sex and sexting are bad, and just how bad, or not bad at all.

The study, led by author Anne Mitchell, polled 2,136 boys and girls in grades 10 through 12, and asked them about everything from HIV transmission to use of technology to drug and alcohol use. The full results of the survey can be found by following the link above.

The high level conclusions from the survey, specifically with respect to teen sexuality and sexting, are as follows:

  • 69% of students had experienced some sort of sexual activity
  • A majority of respondents reported using some form of contraception
  • 14% of sexually active respondents report that their last partner was under 16
  • 17% of students were drunk or high last time they had sex
  • 87% of respondents use social media or apps at least once a day
  • Over half of respondents reported having received sexually explicit messages
  • Over a quarter of respondents reported having sent sexually explicit photos of themselves
  • 9% of respondents had sent a sexually explicit picture or video of someone else

One conclusion from the survey authors:

“The use of social media is almost universal and clearly plays a large role in the negotiation and development of sexual relationships. This includes the now common sending of explicit messages and images, most of which appear to occur within relationships.”

There is a natural desire by journalists and experts to fit controversial topics into neat categories for easier dissemination and discussion. Case and point the articles this week “‘Sexting’ is new courtship’, parents are told” and “Study finds no reason to panic about teens, sex and technology”, both of which used the study results as a centerpiece for discussion.

Is this new normal with respect to sexting okay? Perhaps some level of sexual activity is inevitable. The fact that most kids are using contraception is encouraging. Maybe sexting is not a problem for consenting partners who are older teens; after all, it is undeniable that teens have chosen technology as their go-to medium of communication, and teen pregnancy and abortion rates in this country are at an all time low.

On the other hand, sex with minors under 16, sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or transmitting sexually explicit images of someone else – all not okay.

We shouldn’t stop parenting just because most worst-case scenarios are not playing out in our homes. To wit:

  • Just because lots of people are doing something, doesn’t make it okay
  • Just because something hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it won’t
  • “Not in my house” or “not by my kids” might be wrong
  • If your teen’s sexually explicit photos get posted to the internet, bad things will happen

The proliferation of technology is supposed to have made things better, and in some cases it has, but accepting risky behavior as normal because (a) it’s probably going to happen anyway, and (b) we’ve gotten better at managing the consequences, is silly. Talk to your teens about how they’re using technology, and make sure they understand the risks. Let’s not stop parenting.

 

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

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.