Sexting: Harmful or Harmless?

Teens and pre-teens are increasing sending explicit images of themselves via texting using cell phones, a phenomenon known as “sexting”. Girls as young as eight have been reported sending photos of themselves topless and girls in their early teens sending videos of themselves naked with objects inserted into various parts of their body are not uncommon.

These images are sent by cell phones to boyfriends and other friends, but unfortunately it does not end there. One of the aims of these girls is to use this technology to flirt with young boys and show them images of themselves to get the boys interested.

Teenage girls are also being increasing asked to send explicit images of themselves over the internet. Some girls were pressured into it, others reluctantly agree. Unfortunately, once on the internet these images are there forever. Because it is now possible to download porn on your cell phone and not wait till you get home to the computer, the lines are becoming increasing blurred as to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable behavior when it come to sex and sexual relationships between young males and females.

Because of the prevalence of phones with video facilities, young teenagers can easily take videos of themselves or their friend having sex and put it on the internet, either by the choice of the parties involved or without consent. But what starts out as something that seems like fun can have serious consequences for these girls further down the track. No 13-year-old has the life experience to think through the ramifications of having images of her having sex on the internet. Ten years down the track it can interfere with her personal relationships, her career, even her children.

Some girls are turning up at sexual assault clinics having gone through the process of sexting and are presenting with symptoms similar to those of women who have been raped. In Australia, the NSW government has launched a campaign to educate young girls about the dangers of engaging in these sorts of behaviors. In the meantime, if you are the parent of a teen or even a pre-teen you can influence your child by warning them about the consequences of sexting, keeping an eye on their cell phone use, informing you child that owning or sending child pornography is a crime, and checking sites such as Facebook and MySpace for any activity that may harm your child.

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