When it comes to sexting, most parents worry about girls. What if they share a sexual image? How will it damage their reputation? How do they say no? But what about boys and sexting? It takes at least two to engage in sexting, and it’s just as important to teach our sons not to engage in this behavior. Talking about the risks of putting sexual content online should start early and recur frequently. Here are ways to educate your teen about the risks of sexting.
Sexting Can Lead to Sextortion
Sextortion is serious – no one is immune to becoming a victim, girls or boys.
Although headlines of sextortion — think Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons and Audrie Pottsmay — seem to feature girls, boys are equally at risk and the numbers are rising.
Minnesota Sextortion Scheme
In Minnesota, a 31-year-old man pleaded guilty to victimizing at least 178 high school boys in a sextortion scheme. According to his plea agreement, the man posed as a young female on various “decoy” social media accounts and solicited nude images and videos from high school males. The perpetrator kept folders of nude photos and videos of young women he was posing as, swapping those with his male victims.
The US Assistant District Attorney Carol Kayser reminds us, “People don’t think boys can be victimized,” and pointed out that these students were convinced they were talking to a woman.
Why Do Boys Ask for Nudes?
Recently, Parentology spoke with Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, about changing the conversation with our boys as it pertains to sexting and sexual conversations online.
“Sadly, asking for nude photos has become part of the adolescent culture for many boys,” Morin says. “They hear friends talking about nude photos, see older boys sharing them, and hear rumors about girls giving pictures away.” Morin says some boys look at asking for nude photos from girls as a way of proving their manhood. “Scoring a nude photo from a girl can feel like a badge of honor. It’s almost as if the nude photo is what gives many boys a feeling of conquest.”
Morin says it’s vital for parents to talk to boys about the risks associated with asking others to send sexual content. “Make it clear they shouldn’t pressure anyone or make promises that they’ll only keep in exchange for pictures.”
How to Start the Conversation
Start by explaining potential consequences. Something to make teens aware of — the legal ramifications of texting nude photos. “Talk about how asking for those pictures puts them in possession of child pornography,” Morin says.
Morin suggests pointing out how sexting could impact the teen’s future. “[Sexting] could harm their ability to go to college or get a job someday.” Discuss how those pictures could also damage a girls’ future if those photos got posted on the internet.
Some talking points to broach:
- Acknowledge your child’s intent may not be to hurt anyone. Say something like, “What if you lost your phone or your account got hacked? You can’t guarantee you can keep those pictures safe.”
- Make it clear your son may also experience a high degree of pressure once in possession of nude photos. His friends may ask to look at the pictures. Explain how not having those pictures in the first place can eliminate this issue.
- Talk about how boys may also be tempted to send nude photos. You might even bring up recent cases in the news — including the Minnesota case mentioned above — showing how boys were tricked into sending pictures to someone online who misrepresented themselves. Explain how sending photos can lead to a long list of short-term and long-term consequences.
Although sexting could start out as playful flirting, its risks are very high and could have tragic consequences. It’s important to address both boys and girls equally when discussing online safety.
As Amy Morin emphasizes, “Have the conversations early and frequently.”
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.
Boys and Sexting — Sources
Psychology Today: What is Sextortion and Why Should We Be Concerned?
The New Yorker: The Story of Amanda Todd
The Star: A family’s tragedy and a town’s shame
Rolling Stone: Sexting, Shame and Suicide
CTV News: Online ‘sextortion’ cases involving teen boys spiking: experts
Star Tribune: Eagan man pleads guilty in teen ‘sextortion’ case
Amy Morin, Psychotherapist and psychology lecturer at Northeastern University