The word of the week for me seems to be sexting . . . you know, sending sexually explicit material from one cell phone to another.

For consenting adults, sexting is not necessarily a big issue.  Unless of course the photos are saved and used against a partner in a divorce or custody battle.  Or if the person you sent it to seems to  thinks that social media is a better venue for your picture.   This is known as sextcasting and is humiliating, to say the least.

My 12 year old now has a cell phone and like all children his age with a phone, texting is the preferred communication form.  And yes, his phone, like most phones, has the capability of sending pictures.  So this morning over our morning oatmeal I found myself having a conversation with him that I could not ever imagine having with my own parents at his age.  We talked about sexting, what it is and the ramifications of doing it.  It never ceases to amaze me how me what we have to tell our young children these days.  Sigh.  But it is far better to arm them with information so they don’t seek it elsewhere or get themselves into trouble for lack of it.

Sexting is quite popular with the young crowd.  Taking nude photos and sending them to a love interest is the new flirting.  Young people aren’t savvy enough to understand that the receiver of their photos may not be completely trustworthy, and in fact, might find great pleasure in forwarding those pictures.  Texts spread like wildfire and end up on social network sites.  The problem is (well, clearly there are many problems) that this is considered child pornography.  It is not unheard of for children to get in trouble with the law (exploitation, harassment, felony, registering as a sex  offender) for sending and forwarding nude pictures.  Add pornography to that list of uncomfortable conversations over morning oatmeal.

The emotional pain and legal consequences of sending sexually explicit photos over a cell phone or the internet are not what adolescents are thinking about when they engage in this behavior.  When parents make the decision to get their child a cell phone or a social media account they must leave no stone unturned on the rules of usage.  ALL children have a curiosity about sex, even good kids.  ALL children want approval from their peers.  ALL children are naïve.  ALL children make dumb mistakes.   But sexting and sextcasting are symptoms of a bigger issue – kids don’t view sex in the same way their parents do.  This generation has a much broader view of what is considered acceptable sexual behavior.  It is up to parents to communicate very clearly and stay one step ahead of their tech-savvy kids.

So the next time you have a moment alone with your child, whether over oatmeal or driving down the highway, take that opportunity for a little education on some timely topics. It’s a changing world and we must keep up with the times.

 

 

 

Mary Beth George
Mary Beth George is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Gottman Therapist, Master Trainer for the Gottman Institute and co-owner of Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates. She is an empty nester with a passion for rescue dogs, traveling and spending time with people that make her laugh.