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Sexting And Your Teen

These tips can help you talk to your teen about sexting.

Dr. Sheri Madigan and her research team wanted to know the prevalence of sexting behavior (sharing of sexually explicit images and videos through technological means) among teens. Between 2006 and 2016, they conducted a meta-analysis, looking at 39 different studies about sexting that included 110,380 young people from all over the world, including the United States.

Studies indicate that sexting has been on the rise among teens while teen sex has declined. Findings from the meta-analysis indicate that:

  • 1 in 7 teens sends sexts, 
  • 1 in 4 receives sext messages, and 
  • 41 percent of teens are having sex according to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  • Additionally, older teens are sexting more often than younger teens.

While boys are often portrayed as the requestors of nude images, studies show that girls and boys are equally as likely to participate in sexting. Plus, most of them use their smartphones versus a computer when they sext.

Compared to boys, girls report feeling more pressure to sext and worry they will be judged harshly whether they sext or not. If they do, there is slut-shaming. If they don’t, they are considered a prude. Boys, however, may see sexting as a way to showcase their social status.  

Many teen sexters assume the images will remain private, but the research indicates that:

  • 12.5 percent of teens are forwarding intimate photos without the sender’s consent. 
  • Another 8.4 percent of teens had one of their own sexts forwarded without their consent.

According to the research team, these findings raise some concerns and challenges. Teens may feel that sexting is an expectation if everybody else is doing it. When sexting is coerced and images are used as a form of blackmail or a threat, the combination of digital insecurity and the teen brain processes could lead to compromised safety. Since teens’ brains are still developing, their capacity to critically analyze digital tools and apps may not be enough to keep them safe. So, what can parents do to help?

If you’re a parent, Madigan encourages you to talk with your teens about healthy dating relationships, peer pressure, digital security, sexuality and citizenship. Make it an ongoing conversation where you’re being proactive instead of reactive.

Also, discuss strategies for dealing with peer pressure surrounding sexting and the potential consequences of sending sexts. Once someone sends an image or video, there is no control over who sees it. 

Family Zone offers these 10 tips to help you and your teen deal with sexting:

  • Have open and honest conversations with your children.
  • Don’t abstain from educating your own children about sex and sexualized behaviors. If you don’t educate them, somebody else will.
  • Do not assume that your child will not pass on a nude photo or take one of themselves and share it.
  • Discuss the risks of sexting, including how they would feel if their photos were shared.
  • Be very clear about the law and criminal consequences with your children.
  • Discuss their digital footprint and what that means.
  • Explain their digital citizenship responsibilities.
  • Warn your children to never share photos with people they don’t physically know offline. Consider providing examples of grooming and pedophilia.
  • Attempt to explore if these behaviors are part of a bigger problem with self-esteem and confidence. Like everyone, children like attention and reassurance, but as parents we need to help our kids find healthier ways to feel good about themselves.
  • Ensure they know who they can talk to and where they can get help if needed. They may not want that to be you, so ensure they have a safe person to confide in.

If you’d like additional resources to help guide these conversations, here are some good ones: Common Sense Media’s Sexting Handbook, Common Sense Media, Connect Safely, Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership.

Activist, educator and author Dr. Warren Farrell is at it again. He co-authored The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We can Do About It, with Dr. John Gray. For many years, Farrell has been concerned for the welfare of boys. He believes that fatherlessness is at the very heart of the issue.

In an Institute for Family Studies interview, Farrell asserts that today’s boys often struggle with a sense of hopelessness and a lack of purpose linked in part to family breakdown and father deprivation. He also believes that boys’ and men’s weakness is their facade of strength. 

A United Nations study found boys lagging behind girls in all the developed nations. The women’s movement has really helped young girls recognize that girls can take many paths and be successful. However, while girls’ sense of purpose has grown, boys’ sense of purpose has not. Boys seem to hear either that it’s all about earning money or being a loser. Farrell wonders what would happen if we told boys that being a full-time caregiver is a worthy option?

Boys with little to no father involvement often look to their dads as role models. But without much time with their dads, their role models are more “straw men” or “straw dads,” says Farrell. 

“These boys don’t benefit from overnights, hang-out time, and the many hours it takes for boys to bond with their dads and trust that their feelings won’t be dismissed. Dads tend to build bonds with their sons by, for example, playing games and rough-housing, and then use the resulting bond as leverage for their sons to ‘get to bed on time’ lest there be ‘no playing tomorrow night.’” 

This boundary enforcement teaches boys postponed gratification, whereas boys with minimal or no father involvement are more frequently addicted to immediate gratification. Additionally, having minimal or no father involvement increases the chances of video game addiction, ADHD, bad grades, less empathy, less assertiveness and more aggression. It also leads to fewer social skills, more alienation and loneliness, more obesity, rudderlessness, anger, drugs, drinking, delinquency, disobedience, depression and suicide. Fatherless boys are more likely to serve time in prison, too. 

In a TEdx Talk on “The Boy Crisis,” Farrell cites that since 1980 in California, 18 new prisons have been built, but only one new university. There’s been a 700 percent increase in the prison population and it’s mostly a dad-deprived male population. 

As an example of the pain of fatherlessness, Farrell mentioned Anthony Sims. Sims is known as the Oakland Killer. His last Facebook post was this:  “I wish I had a father.”

Many see guns as the problem. However, Farrell contends that school shootings are mostly white boys’ method of acting out their hopelessness. He says guns are also white boys’ method of committing suicide, and serve as a reflection of our inability to help constructively track boys to manhood. He points out that girls living in those same homes with the same family values and issues are not killing people at school.

Farrell speaks of attending a party once where he learned that a men’s group formed by Farrell had impacted a man named John more than any other thing in his life. When group members asked the man, “What is the biggest hole in your heart?” he blurted out, “I was so involved in my career, I neglected my wife and my son. That’s the biggest hole and a deeper hole because I ended up divorced. I remarried and the group knew that my wife was pregnant with our son.” The group then asked, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you like to do?” He said he would take five years off and help raise his son. Then he talked with his wife, who told him to go for it. He shared that it had been two years.

Farrell asked John if it was a good decision.“No,” he replied. “The best decision of my life. Up until I took care of my son, my whole life was about me, me, me. Suddenly it was about my son. I suddenly learned to love and be loved.” 

As they were wrapping up their conversation, someone asked for an autograph. Farrell thought it was for him, but it was for John. Farrell said, “I guess you’re famous. What’s your last name, John?” 

“Lennon,” he said. John Lennon had discovered he was not giving love by earning money as a human doing, but by being love. 

Many boys are struggling, wandering aimlessly, and looking for their purpose. Farrell and many others believe one way to end the boy crisis is for fathers, uncles, grandfathers and other male role models to step up and stand in the gap. They also want women to encourage men in their efforts to raise men of purpose.

For more information on the importance of fathers, download our E-book “Why Being a dad is a BIG Deal.”

An alert American Airlines ticket agent has been hailed a hero after preventing two teen girls from becoming part of a human trafficking scam. The girls showed up with one-way first-class tickets to New York City from California. They had no identification on them. The agent discovered the tickets purchased with a fraudulent credit card. The suspicious ticket agent denied the girls’ tickets. While the teens walked over to a Starbucks table and made a call, the ticket agent alerted authorities.

Authorities learned that a guy had invited the girls to New York City for the weekend so they could earn $2,000 performing in music videos and modeling. The teens had no idea their tickets were one-way.

Who wouldn’t be excited about earning $2,000 in a weekend? Human traffickers often portray themselves as agents to connect young people to their dream career or to easy money. But that’s not the only way people end up trafficked. Stories abound of people being preyed upon in stores, at truck stops and online.

Research indicates that while human traffickers look for the most vulnerable at-risk youth, even young people who have loving, caring parents can fall victim to traffickers.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s website:

  • In the United States, on average, every two minutes, a child bought or sold for sex.
  • The average age of a child sold for sex is 13 years old.
  • Human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking.

“According to the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, 41 percent of those who are trafficked are trafficked by family members,” says Emily Aikins, director of survivor services at Second Life, an anti-human trafficking nonprofit in Tennessee. “Many people have this stereotype in their mind of the kind of person that is trafficked when in reality, victims of human trafficking come from literally all walks of life.”

Todd Womack, Senator Bob Corker’s chief-of-staff, happened to hear the International Justice Mission’s Gary Haugen speak on human trafficking a few years ago. At the end of Haugen’s talk, he made a plea to attendees, saying the only way to end human trafficking is if everybody looks around and decides what they can do to shed light on this tragedy in their own sphere of influence.

Womack and Corker took that call to heart and began working with the END IT Movement and other nonprofit organizations to envision, develop and pass into law the End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which is now operating as the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery.

You may be wondering how you can help prevent young people from becoming human trafficking victims. Here are some ways anyone can help:

  • Educate yourself. Educate yourself and family members, especially your teens, and friends about the signs of human trafficking. The more educated you are, the more prepared you will be to stop it.
  • Be alert. Whether you are in a restaurant, airport, walking on the street, at a sporting event or getting a pedicure, you can help prevent children from becoming victims – just like the American Airlines agent. If something looks suspicious, alert authorities by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center line at 1-888-373-7888. Tennessee’s own trafficking hotline is 855-558-6484.
  • Teach your children good internet safety skills. Know who is in your kids’ social network. Many predators connect with teens on social media and begin grooming them. Then they do exactly as the person did with the two girls headed to New York City. They offer them something too good to be true. But even though they may know their parents wouldn’t approve, they aren’t quite discerning enough to realize they could be getting themselves into a dangerous situation.
  • Talk with your teens about healthy sexuality. Help them to know that sex cannot be bought and sold.

No matter the size of your platform, everyone can do something. 

Turner Matthews, who interned in Senator Corker’s office, learned of the END IT Movement two years ago. Upon returning to his school, he painted a huge rock on campus known as the “The Rock with a red X.” This year he not only painted “The Rock with a red X,” he also created an event around it to bring attention to human trafficking issues. He, like so many others, is using his personal sphere of influence to bring light to the problem.

What will you do?