How to talk to your kids about sexting...

A recent article in the Washington Post about sexting and a podcast called Note to Self got me thinking about the subject. “Sexting” is the exchange of sexually explicit images between minors (17 years or younger) via tech, usually cells phones.  A study from 2012 found that roughly 20% of U.S. adolescents between 13 and 19 reported having sent, or posted, a nude or semi-nude photo of themselves, and 28% said they received a sext message intended for someone else. 

I wonder if “sexting” is too strong a word for a lot of what is actually going on these days. When we use the word “sexting” to describe certain images I worry that we get into a blaming and shaming mindset that can prevent constructive conversations with our children. Some images that we may label as “sexting” could be more appropriately referred to as simply “physically revealing.”

I want to be clear that I’m not condoning that teens send inappropriate, revealing photos to each other. But, we have to figure out a way to talk with our kids about what they are seeing and doing, and what they think it makes sense. We can hear them out, give them some data, and our views—but let’s do it from a realistic place, not a scary place.

Here are some questions for Tech Talk Tuesday to get a conversation with your kids started about sexting:

  • How do you define sexting?
  • When you post a picture of yourself in a bathing suit, running bra or shirtless, why are you doing this? Is it because you think you look great and want to let everyone know? Is it because that’s just what everyone is doing?
  • How do you decide what to post versus text?
  • Have you ever received a physically revealing picture that made you feel uncomfortable?
  • Have you ever sent a physically revealing picture of yourself to someone, or posted one to social media, and then regretted it?