Julie Nelson-Kuna, PhD, LLC
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
800 W. 5th Avenue, Suite 101B
Naperville, Il 60563
(331) 472-7313; drjulienelsonkuna.com
Yikes! Help me understand the appeal of sexting.
First, a note of reassurance that not everyone is doing it! Surveys vary, but it seems that about a third of teens report that they have sent selfies that include nude body parts, in a sexually provocative pose. Sexting generally occurs in the context of a relationship, and in this situation, it is likely parents will not know this is occurring, unless they are regularly monitoring their adolescent’s text messages. It appears that both boys and girls send these images in about the same frequency, but girls are much more likely to be asked to send a sext.
It is the pressured sexters, who are likely girls, that are much more vulnerable to being exploited. Girls believe these nude images will help them get a boyfriend, or make them more popular because they are so ‘edgy.’ A small minority of girls will send these sexts, unsolicited, as a way to gain popularity with a boy. But sexting rarely works, and these girls appear to more susceptible to mental health problems, risky sexual behavior, and self-cyber bullying, which is a disturbing phenomenon in which teens post mean things about themselves on social media sites, to generate sympathy or attention. Our girls need to believe that they have so much self-worth, beyond their physical appearance.
Teens have always been about exploring their emerging sexuality, and since more and more of their socializing is occurring through social media, it is not surprising that sexual exploration is also found on social media. As parents, we need to include sexting as part of our family values discussion regarding responsible sexual behavior. It does appear that sexting is related to increased sexual activity. Parents should seek to understand their teen’s understanding of why teens sext, and this will help parents better understand the digital world in which their teenagers live. We need to remind our children that sext messages, like all messages, cannot be retrieved, and can easily be shared. Some individuals who sext, have been subject to criminal investigation by the police, as sexting is defined as self-production and distribution of pornography.