The more teens use technology, the greater the chances of its misuse. Sexting is a perfect example of not just the wrong use of technology, but also of landing oneself in a problem.
By Arun Sharma
7 northwest Iowa teens arrested in sexting case, police say — Des Moines Register (14 Feb 2018)
Teenage girl faces child pornography charges for sending explicit selfie over Snapchat — The Independent (24 December 2017)
One in seven teens are ‘sexting,’ says new research — The Conversation (27 Feb 2018)
These are just a few of the several headlines appearing across newspapers worldwide. In India, we are yet to come across such news reports; however, the day may not be far away, as teens have taken to texting in a big way. Quite a few of them engage in texting almost all the time – at the dining table, sitting in the classroom, watching a movie, talking with parents, before falling asleep and so on. In fact, some teens go beyond the acceptable norms of texting and begin sexting.
On its website, NHS Choices defines sexting as, “ ‘Sexting’ is when people send sexual messages – sometimes together with photos or videos (also known as nude or semi-nude selfies) – by text, an app or online.”
While no excuse can be accepted for indulging in the misadventure of sexting, there are a number of reasons why some teens fall for it.
One of the top reasons is the peer pressure to become sexually active. Researchers Walrave et al published a study titled, ‘Under pressure to sext? Applying the theory of planned behaviour to adolescent sexting’, in the journal Behaviour & Information Technology. This study found that, “friends and romantic partners represent the most important sources of social pressure.” Teens were more likely to sext those in whom they had complete trust, and friends and romantic partners were those who elicited complete trust.
Also, hormone-mediated sexual arousal and attraction towards members of the opposite sex, as well as the refusal to say ‘No’ when sexted are two other major reasons.
While there are no specific signs to identify the habit of sexting, here are some behaviours that should raise concern in parents:
The adage ‘Prevention is better than cure’ works well always and in all situations. So, instead of confronting your teen about her habit of sexting and worrying about the consequences, here’s what you can do to prevent the habit from taking root in her.
Also, while you keep your teen’s phone use in check, remember that sexting is not just limited to sending explicit text messages and photos on smartphones. In fact, sexting can be done through means by which media can be shared such as email or web chat. And, while it may look like innocuous indulgence of an inexperienced young individual, it isn’t so. For, it can have negative legal and social consequences.
*Dr Debarati Halder is the Honorary Managing Director of the Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org). She is also working as Professor & Head of the Department of Research, Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Arundhati Swamy is a counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle.
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