Sexualized Texting or “Sexting”

children and technology Jul 25, 2018

by editorial team


The days of passing “notes” to a crush in biology have long passed. Teens (as well as  younger and older children) can now use technology to send messages—including audio files, photos, and videos—in the blink of an eye. These messages are sometimes sexual. And they may exist forever in cyberspace. defines sexting as “the sending or receiving of sexually-explicit or sexually-suggestive images or video via a cell phone or computer.”

Parental Supervision is Not Enough

While parental supervision of your children's activities online is important, it is not a failsafe plan when it comes to sexting. With technology, kids can “sext” from anywhere without others noticing: school, their bedroom, on the couch with the family during movie night, or just about anywhere in plain view of others.

Why Do Kids Sext?

Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center reports the following to be contributing reasons for sexting.

  • Kids are exposed more and more to sexualized images in music, magazine, and media, which normalized sexual content
  • Relationship currency
  • Kids use sexual photos as part, or instead, of sexual activity
  • To maintain a relationship with a significant other
  • As a joke or fun
  • To bully others by sharing embarrassing sexually explicit photos or videos of others.
  • Private messages between two individuals can escalate to significant problems with public sharing

The Pew Research Center also identified three predominant scenarios for “sexting.”

  • Exchange of photos and information between two romantically-involved partners
  • Sharing of private pictures or videos to others outside the romantic relationship
  • Sharing of sexual images in hopes of starting a romantic relationship

Possible Ramifications of Sexting

Kids are young, impulsive and naturally curious about sex. Hormones, innocence, and a natural curiosity combined with the immediacy and permanency of sexting can lead to a perfect storm of potential problems. Photos, pictures or anything sexual attached to a child’s name can have lasting implications.

  • Embarrassment
  • Regret
  • Staying power
  • Potential legalities

Images can remain forever in cyberspace. This could cause future embarrassment, undermine future educational and career opportunities (prospective employers and colleges may find this kind of information), and increase exposures to unsafe people (such as predators). There are also possible legal ramifications for both sender and recipient as well as the parent, if there are images of the underage individual on a shared family computer.

Talk to Kids About Sexting

The best time to talk with kids about sexting is before it happens. Most parents dread the talking about anything related to sex. But parents must help children navigate the online world safely. There is no guarantee that sexting won’t occur, but the following tips may help minimize its impact.

  1. Help your kids understand digital permanence.
  2. Help your kids understand there is no guarantee of privacy. Someone could pick up the recipient’s phone, or other scenarios.
  3. Media Smarts offers the following tips for messaging safety.
  4. Encourage your kids to pause before they send texts or messages and wonder:
    1. Is this how I want the world to see another person or me?
    2. Could this information ever be used (today, tomorrow, or the future) to hurt another person or me?
    3. What is the worst thing that could happen if I shared this photo?

Kids and teens naturally live in the moment. Considering the permanence of what they post now is not natural for them, unless parents educate their children about what their kids should not publish on social media. Children can benefit greatly from understanding the permanency of what they publish or send, and writing and sharing things with mindfulness and maturity. 


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