As children embrace technology to troll the Cyber World, the dangers of sexting are merely a click away.
TeenSafe CEO Rawdon Messenger is urging parents to be empowered and talk to their children about staying safe after plugging in to text messages, calls and social media.
The first challenge is to try to explain to your children what it means to send, receive or request an explicit image, said Mr. Messenger, who is based in California and is the creator of an advanced iPhone and Android monitoring software. And how, even though it might seem (like) something fun or cool, its very, very important to stop and think about what the consequences of doing that could be.
Sexting occurs when someone sends sexually explicit photographs or text messages to another, which is a practice that has begun to affect teens.
Our childrens frontal cortex, which is their ability to make judgement calls and understand what the repercussions could be in real time arent developed so well, said Mr. Messenger. The issue with a smartphone is that its right there in your hand and youre not necessarily sitting next to the person that youre requesting the image of, so sometimes children feel sheltered or not close to the dangers that this might cause. Its really (important) to explain to them the issues of their behaviour and what that means.
Interest in sex typically enters the brain during puberty around the ages of 12 and 13 years old, according to TeenSafe, which is why it is not uncommon for the YouTube generation to use the Internet to look for information about sex.
I think parents need to be open (minded) to talk to their teens about sexting and telling them why sexting can be an unhealthy activity, said Magali Larochelle, youth outreach worker and Columbia Valley Youth Centre team co-ordinator for the Family Resource Centre. And, also, it is by talking about the subject that we raise awareness among our teens and our communities.
Ms. Larochelle saysit is common to see teens in the Columbia Valley involved in sexting and echoed the importance of teaching teens how to protect themselves from social media.
While Mr. Messenger acknowledges the tension talking about sexting could bring to families, he encourages parents to have the sext (sex + text) talk with their children. However, he emphasized the motivation to sext varies between boys and girls stating that 77 per cent of boys sext to initiate sex; 40 per cent of girls sext because they find it humorous; while 34 per cent of girls sext to feel sexy.
I think that boys tend to be less mature than girls in their thinking, said Mr. Messenger, and from what we see and hear from parents and psychologists is that boys like to joke around in a simple way.
He believes the dangers of sexting lie in a common misconception among children who believe there is no risk of getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
The first danger is that once its out (pictures), youll never get it back, said Mr. Messenger. The second danger is what that can lead to, which is obviously a huge reputational issue. These images can be published and they often are on social media websites such as Tumblr, Reddit, Instagram.
For more information about monitoring your childs digital safety, visit www.TeenSafe.com for tips on talking about and solutions for the ramifications of sexting.