Explaining the Consequences of Sexting to Your Kids

Parents need to accept the growing rise in sexting and have conversations with their teens (and preteens) about the potential consequences of sexting.

Many parents would probably say they don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to their teen and sexting, the exchange of sexually explicit messages and photos via SMS, or texting.

But most of those parents would be wrong.

According to a report by Drexel University, more than 50% of surveyed students said that they sexted as minors.

Parents can no longer look the other way when it comes to sexting. They need to accept the growing rise in sexting and have conversations with their teens (and preteens) about the potential consequences of sexting.

Sexting Can Be Considered Child Pornography

Child pornography is a term that will likely scare and repulse most teens. But those same teens probably have no idea that sexting, as in receiving and sharing illicit images of minors, can be legally categorized as child pornography.

The Drexel study showed that many teens are unaware of this association and found that 61% of respondents didn’t know that sexting was considered child pornography.

But sexting is connected to child pornography and can lead to legal repercussions as twelve teens in Chicago found out. A group of male students aged 15 and 16 were taken into custody after it was learned that they were distributing nude images of others under the age of 18.

Related Post: Taking Responsibility for Kids and Sexting

Relationships May End, But Images Will Remain

It isn’t uncommon for teenagers in relationships to believe that their relationship will last forever and fail to think the possibility of it ever ending. So, when they are about to send an explicit message or photo to their boyfriend or girlfriend, they rarely think about what will happen to that message if they break up.

Parents need to have conversations with their teens about the reality of their relationships and remind them to think about what will happen if the relationships ends.

Would they want their ex to have their hands on the photos after the relationship? What could happen if the relationship ended poorly? Would their ex use that photo against them?

Teens need to be reminded that if they share sexual photos with their boyfriend or girlfriend, that photo will remain even if the relationship ends.

People Can Share and Steal Private Images

When teens send a text, social media post, or sext, they often aren’t thinking about the long-term life of their message.

They send a message to a specific person and believe that is their only audience. They usually don’t think about the possibility of the message being shared or stolen without their knowledge.

But any piece of digital material has the potential of being shared without consent.

Teens may think that they are safe using platforms like Snapchat, where images are deleted after an allotted amount of time.

But even these sites and platforms are not safe. Last year, MamaBear covered a situation where 13GB of photos and videos on SnapChat were stolen by hackers.

Images that teens thought were private were stolen and shared without the creator’s’ knowledge.

Related: Snappening: What Snapchat’s Third Party Hack Means for Our Kids

The Cost of a Damaged Reputation

Whether images from sexting are stolen, intentionally misused, or just remain on a social media site on the Internet,  the ultimate danger is a permanent consequence linked to a damaged reputation.

When a college entrance committee, a prospective employer, or anyone else that may be in a position to make a decision affecting your child’s future can find  messages and photos as they search your child’s name across the web they are more and more likely to say “no,” often before even considering the actual school or job application. Many colleges are now running software to scan the Internet for content linked to potential new students. Imagine 4 years of hard work in high school to achieve grades and test scores high enough to apply to the best schools, only to be denied because of a few stray sexting messages.

Related: How To Talk to Your Kids About Their Digital Reputation

Parents can no longer avoid and ignore teen sexting.

They need to have conversations with their teens to help them clearly see the potential consequences that can come from sexting and sharing inappropriate and illicit messages. Parents can also get more involved with their child’s digital world by using MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™. The free app, available for iPhones and Androids, sends parents notifications regarding their child’s social media activity and account, keeping them in the loop of their child’s social media habits and digital life.

Table Talk Discussion: How To Talk to Your Kids About Their Digital Reputation

Find out how talking to your kids about shaping and managing their digital reputation may impact their ability to get into college.

Your child’s digital reputation is more important now than ever as it may affect their ability to hold a job, play on a team, and even get into college.

Here are a few important talking points to review with your preteen and teen as you discuss the impact their digital reputation can have on the rest of their lives.

Your Digital Reputation Starts Now

A “digital reputation” is the image you project and content you create online. It  is shaped by what  you post and the way you act online. It also includes what others post about you and all of the  information that can be found about you through search. It is your “personal brand” online, and may be the only impression someone has about you if they don’t know you personally.

In the current landscape of technology and social media, the digital footprint of your online life starts early, and, more importantly, stories, photos and other online information about you, can last forever.

It is never too early to start thinking about, and actively managing, your digital reputation, or your child’s,  as it will  shape how people perceive you, both online and offline, and can directly impact your personal life as well as your professional life. or in the case of children, their school and young social life.

Your Digital Reputation Can Get You Kicked Off a Team or Fired From a Job

Many preteens and teens think only their friends are reading the content they post on social media. They may be surprised to learn that their, teacher,  bosses, coaches and their friends parents are watching too.

A baseball player at Bloomsburg University learned that the hard way when he posted an offensive tweet about female Little League World Series pitcher Mo’ne Davis.

His coaches and the school noticed his tweet and dismissed the college sophomore from his team.

One tweet changed the course of this player’s entire collegiate experience. He later said, “An example that one stupid tweet can ruin someone’s life and I couldn’t be more sorry about my actions last night.”

Your Digital Reputation Can Impact Your Ability to Get Into College

Preteens and teens need to think about the wide audience that can see what they post online and remember that audience includes people they don’t know and may need to have a favorable impression of you in the future.

In some cases, college admissions professionals are researching applicants online and using what they find online to judge students and decide if they would be a good representation of the college.

According to a Kaplan study, 12% of college admission applicants were rejected because of what admissions counselors saw on social media. Imagine your child working hard to get the grades and scores to apply to great colleges only to be denied because of some errant posts or photos on their social media pages.

What Will Make Your Digital Reputation Look Bad

Colleges, businesses, and teams don’t want to form relationships with individuals who have a bad reputation online. A few ways to build a bad reputation include the following behaviors.

  • No Filter on posts or tweets: saying anything and everything that is on your  mind
  • Bragging: gloating, bragging or appearing very self-focused
  • Negative Chat: using social media as a place to vent frustrations and show anger
  • Bullying: saying hurtful or mean comments about others
  • Questionable Photos: each photo is part of an online reputation, even if meant in fun
  • Bad Language: obviously, swearing or discriminatory language should not be used online

How To Make Your Digital Reputation Look Good

On the other side, colleges, businesses, and teams do want to form relationships with individuals that can maintain a professional and positive position on social media through the following habits.

  • Be Mindful of Who Is Listening and Searching About You (It’s Everyone): A good rule of thumb is to not post anything that you wouldn’t want to be published on the front page of a newspaper.
  • Use Your Privacy Settings: If you want to share personal photos with close family and friends, be vigilant about setting your privacy settings. But know that anything you post online, even private things, can be shared.
  • Monitor What Others Post About You: Keep an eye on the photos and posts that you are tagged in. You are responsible for monitoring the photos and posts that relate to you.

A parent’s job doesn’t end after talking to their kids about their digital reputation.

Managing an online reputation is a big job, and kids need continual guidance as they learn the boundaries of social media etiquette and conduct. Parents should remain involved in their children’s social media world by monitoring their accounts and directing their behavior toward appropriate and productive habits that will help them, not hinder them in the future.

Parents can easily stay connected using the free iPhone and Android app MamaBear, The Ultimate Parenting App™ which easily syncs a child’s social media stream with their parent’s account and allows parents to see and help manage what is on their social media, even what others post about them.

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