Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit photographs or messages with an electronic device. Students at Drexel University were asked if they had ever participated in sexting when they were under 18; 54% reported yes and most of them thought it was “no big deal.” Another study found that increasingly youth are producing child pornography and the study indicates that 100 percent of the content was shared to third party websites, which cannot be traced. The researchers noted a specific concern that the young people featured, “took no steps to conceal their identity or location, even in many cases using their real names.” The study also found that 667 of the images and videos evaluated featured children 15 years and younger, and of this group, 286 were 10 years or younger. The researchers said their report confirms an alarming trend of young children producing and distributing explicit content online.
Despite the normalization of sexting, the dangers and consequences of sexting are often life altering. It’s a huge deal with real consequences, but that concept has a hard time penetrating naïve perceptions of the venomous act.
There is an extensive list of the dangers of sexting. Here are five that you should especially be aware of:
- It is child porn. If an individual under 18 sends a sexually explicit message/photograph they are creating and distributing child pornography. Whether an individual creates, distributes, or views child pornography, it is a crime. Eight students at a high school in Pennsylvania learned this the hard way. Ranging from ages 13 to 17, the teens we all accused of “using their cell phones to take, send, or receive nude photos of each other and in one case a short video of a oral sex. That resulted in a felony child pornography charge for each minor.” Stories like this are unfortunately very common these days. The criminal records often stay with these kids and they risk being forced to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Sexting is an ugly crime that makes a permanent mark on offenders’ records. What’s worse is that child predators and child porn collectors often find these images and further distribute them to others.
- The image follows you. Once an image or video is released via text or over the Internet, it is out there forever. Even if you think it’s deleted “IT departments can retrieve text messages that the user thought were deleted months or even years ago.” Most of the “sexting” apps like Snapchat have been hacked and receivers often make copies without the sender’s knowledge. A nude or even partially nude photo is not an image you want in the realm of forever. It takes one second to send a photo/message that will haunt you for the rest of your life.
- It will spread. Most “sexters” are under the false impression that the receiver of the sext will keep it confidential. Although we would like to think this is true, this is not reality. A study concludes, “of those who reported receiving a sext, well over 25 percent said that they had forwarded it to someone else. So, they’re sharing the pics with their friends.” There have been instances at many high schools of students creating email, Facebook, and even Instagram accounts with a collection of nude or partly nude pictures of girls at the school. These images are contributed to the accounts from various students who have received them on their personal The only way to assure a sext does not circulate is to never send one.
- Damages your Reputation. When sending a sext an individual is not just sending a sexually explicit message or photograph. They are also sending unwanted messages about themselves that are likely to injure their reputation. A sext can communicate that the sender is easily persuaded, very sexual, and interested in pleasing others, however that may be. A sext can also make the receiver view the sender as a sexual object instead of a real person with real feelings. Reputations are invaluable but can be ruined as fast as pressing send.
- Leads to bullying. Unfortunately sexts can and are often used to humiliate. There’s nothing stopping those who receive sexts from publically displaying them for all to see or using them as black mail. In one case, a 13-year-old girl committed suicide after “topless photographs circulated.” What was sent to gain the attention from a boy, quickly “got the attention of her school, as well as the high school nearby.” It only took one sext to yield such a tragic outcome. Many reports from sex trafficked girls indicate that traffickers first used sexts as a means to coerce their victims to comply with their demands.
Sexting can seem so harmless and appear very private. When looking at the facts though, the very real harms become clear. Sexting is camouflaged by the hopes of getting attention, the desire to feel wanted, and the pressures of society; but the dangers of it must be exposed.
- Study Finds Most Teens Sext Before They’re 18
- Alarming New Study: Rise in Youth-Produced Child Pornography
- “Sexting” Leads to Child Porn Charges for Teens
- Think Deleted Text Messages are Gone Forever? Think Again
- The Dangers of Teen Sexting
- ‘Sexting’ Bullying Cited for Teens Suicide