3 Sexting Dangers You Need to Discuss with Your Students

We were on a Youth Ministry Institute retreat. A female college student came to me in tears. One of her small group students had been caught by her mom taking a video of herself in the shower. Everyone was shocked. No one saw that one coming. The video was sent. There was no way to get it back before it went through the high school.

That was a few years back. It was the same time that the Pew institute released these stats.

  • 39% of teenagers say they have sexted
  • 51% female teens admit they feel pressure to sext photos of themselves
  • 4% of teens who own smart phones ages 12 to 17 say they sexted a sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude image or video of themselves to someone via text message
  • 15% of teens say they have been sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of someone they know in a text messaging on their phone

Some parents, youth pastors and para church workers were under the mistaken impression that this had gone away. They thought it wasn’t a problem for their kids. They were wrong.

Recent statistics prove otherwise. see  http://ehs.siu.edu/her/_common/documents/prospectus/prospectus_1/hudson-prospectus.pdf  It shows that:

  • 24% of American high-school age teens (ages 14 to 17) and 33% of college-age students (ages 18 to 24) have been involved in a form of nude sexting.
  • Sending semi-nude or nude photos is more common among teens girls. 22% of teen girls report sending images of this nature, while only 18% of same-age boys have.
  • 15% of teens who have sent or posted nude/semi-nude images of themselves send these messages to people they have never met, but know from the Internet.
  • A study published in 2012 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicinefound that more than half of 14- to 19-year-olds have been asked to send a nude photo of themselves to someone, while 31 percent had done the asking, and 28 percent had followed through—higher numbers than those found in earlier studies.

So it is more common that we thought. Where are the big dangers? Here are 3:

 Danger #1  Revenge Pornography

Students need to consider “Who will see your sext?”

  • 17% of sexters share the messages they receive with others, and 55% of those share them with more than one person.

In an article called the Naked Truth http://www.wfmynews2.com/news/article/269479/57/Sexting-The-Naked-Truth  Triad, NC– Recently, University of  Texas researchers surveyed 1,000 high school students, and 30 percent of them admitted to texting nude photos of themselves.

And if there is any question concerning the damage to the soul, hear this girl’s story from the news article

It was full body and I wish to this day I hadn’t sent it because it changes everything.”

It was to a bitter ex-boyfriend. He shared her sexted photo with other students after a breakup. The shame and embarrassment led to a severe depression.

“I’ve tried cutting myself several times. I tried choking myself to make myself pass out and keep it there and just die,” explained the girl, who wants to remain unnamed.

The article continues to say that “On the streets, teens say sexting is a bigger problem than parents know.” They ask for face shot, and the next question would be can I have a full body shot,” explained another teenager.

After a break up, one in ten males will post an explicit image of their ex to the internet. The damage to the student can be irreparable as girls who get a copy of the picture or video often engage in shaming girls in this compromising situation.

Danger #2.  Sextploitation

In an Article in Teen Vogue Sarah Giacobbe warns, “Here’s what’s unsettling: As sexting has risen in popularity, the consequences have grown far more serious. According to estimates, hundreds of websites now specialize in the anonymous—and unauthorized—posting of girls’ explicit photos, often accompanied by details about where they live or go to school, along with links to their social media accounts.”

Hopefully teens have not forgotten the story of Amanda Todd the BC teen who committed suicide because she was being blackmailed by an online stalker. Sexting, snapchat and now the new app slingshot which shares videos that are supposed to disappear only add to the problem. SUP is another app that claims you can remote control your friends. It can have bad consequences.

Most students feel confident that they would never fall prey to a cyber-stalker. It is this false sense of security that makes them so vulnerable to sexting a boyfriend or girlfriend and having no control over where that image or video has gone.

Danger #3 Legal Action

Stephen Balkam of the Huffington Post explains:

“Let’s be clear. Sexting is a risky behavior with potential harms — both emotional and reputational for those involved. While some dismiss it as a modern form of flirting, sexting can have real world implications that can last a lifetime, particularly for teens.” He continues to say that teens sexting teens is not a crime. Not every state or high school sees it that way.

Sending or receiving a sexually suggestive text or image under the age of 18 is considered child pornography and can result in criminal charges in some states. Many states have passed legislation making sexting of a minor illegal. These laws are now being tested in the courts. Canada is in the process of passing some of the toughest legislation in the world in bill C-13.

Sexting is not harmless flirting. It can have serious legal consequences that students never consider.

Please Say Something

There was an ancient heresy spread in the church called Gnosticism. One branch of it believed that what you do with your body has nothing to do with the soul. Teens need to understand that what they do with their body can damage their soul. It is a clear form of sexual immorality causing guilt and shame.

Sending, receiving and redistributing sexts damage a teens reputation, and their soul. It is not a harmless form of flirting. It is not a joke. In many places it is illegal.

If you work with students on campus, or in a church, it is so important to get this message across. Let’s pray that they take it to heart. I doubt we will turn this trend around but I pray we can protect the teens that we work with.

 

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Ron Powell

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Ron Powell is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com