By the age of 10, nearly 15% of children who own a smartphone will be exposed to sexting, according to a recent report titled Sexting and Minors. As a reaches 13 years old, statistics go up, with over 36% experiencing sexting. As a parent, you may be surprised by these stats. It becomes important to ask: Is your child in that 15% or 36%? This report’s findings could determine when you decide to have a conversation with your child about sexting awareness.
Sexting and Minors report also shared sexting was mostly mutual. Between the ages of 10 and 17, nearly 60% of all sexting involves interactions where both parties were involved. Although requests for sexual pictures or videos reach their height in mid-adolescence, 24% of children that own smartphones also take part in these discussions.
Something parents should note: it’s important to approach boys and girls equally on this topic, as the risks and consequences can be the same. However, by the age of eight, over 15% of girls with smartphones were exposed to sexting in some fashion. Boys’ sexting peaks at age 14, while girls’ sexting remains high consistently throughout their teenage years, according to this latest report.
An Expert Weighs In
Richard Guerry, author and founder of The Institute of Responsible Online Cellphone Communication (IROC2), travels the country speaking on digital consciousness to elementary, middle and high school students, as well as teachers and parents. A question that always comes up, “Why are kids sending nudes or any sexual content?”
“Oftentimes I hear, ‘its normal’ or ‘everyone is doing it’,” Guerry tells Parentology. “In a specific school — or circle of people in that school, or town — this may seem true.”
All the more reason, Guerry says, to instill how this isn’t the norm everywhere. “At some point, should they wish to go to college, get a job, join politics or whatever their future holds – these [now] kids will be interacting with many people who don’t see sending nudes as normal.”
Going a step further, Guerry says it’s important to emphasize once sexting content is on a device there are many ways for it to be communicated — by accident, or on purpose. “Once that content is sent to another individual(s), there’s absolutely no way to ever know where or when it may resurface,” he says. “Ask your children, ‘What are you communicating on a tool or platform that instantly connects you to the planet, and how will this hurt or benefit you?'”
Guerry suggests parents open and continue to dialogue with their children about sexting prevention. Some issues to discuss:
- Ask how they think content placed on cell phones or social media platforms that are intended to be private gets leaked to the public and becomes a permanent fixture on the internet. Guerry says he hears various creative answers. “Sometimes it’s general, i.e. hackers could steal it, sometimes it’s specific, such as my friend could send it to some else or screenshot it.” Coming from this approach often opens kids’ eyes to just how easy private information can become public.
- Guerry says parents should role model their expectations. This should be everything, he says, from “How do I hide something catastrophic to myself on a tool built for communication, to how do I use a tool built for communication to communicate to the world that I can be amazing?”
One of many benefits that can come from such exercises, “If we can create this shift, mindset and set up expectations — what I call developing digital consciousness — we’ll find that today and tomorrow’s digital citizens can do some incredible things with technology that past generations may never dreamed possible.”
It Takes a Community
Guerry reminds parents and educators to show students examples from the news as to some instances where sexting has drastically impacted not just to adults, but kids, but adults.
“Yes, there are kids who will say or think, ‘it won’t happen to me,’ but there’s a difference between making a blind decision (truly believing content will disappear) versus informed decisions — knowing the picture won’t disappear, but doing it anyway.”
About the Author
Sue Scheff is a nationally-recognized author, parent advocate and family internet safety advocate. She founded Parents Universal Resources Experts, Inc in 2001. She’s been featured on the Today Show, 20/20, Anderson Cooper and more. She’s also a contributor for Psychology Today, NBC’s Education Nation and Today Show Parents. You can follow her on Twitter and join her on Facebook.
Sexting Awareness: Sources
Common Sense: What’s the Right Age for Parents to Get Kids a Cell Phone
Sexting and Minors Report
Richard Guerry – IROC