What would your child do if a nude picture of a classmate showed up on their smartphone? Even if you’re reasonably sure your child would never use their cell phone to take and send a nude photo of themselves, they may think nothing of forwarding a similar picture of someone else.
The practice of forwarding sexts is many times more common than the act of creating sexts, as numerous recent studies show:
- 4% of cell-owning teens admit to sending sexually suggestive or nude pictures of themselves; 15% say that they’ve received suggestive pictures of someone they know on their phones (Internet and American Life Project, Pew Research Center)
- 29% of teens report having sexts shared with them that were not meant for them to see (Sex and Tech, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy)
- 44% of teens said it’s common for sexually suggestive texts to be shared with someone other than the intended recipient (Sex and Tech)
With those statistics in mind, please make clear to your child that forwarding a sext message of someone else is still sexting. It opens them up to the same legal consequences as if they had sent their own picture. It also could be considered cyberbullying and could do serious harm.
Here are four reasons to talk to your child about never forwarding a sext:
- If the subject is under 18, your child could become a registered sex offender. He or she could be charged with possessing and/or distributing child pornography.
- If the subject is under 18, everyone who receives the image from your child could also be charged with possessing child pornography.
- Your child could face school discipline for cyberbullying, violating school technology policies, or misuse of school equipment.
- It humiliates the subject of the picture. The kindest possible thing to do is to delete a sext immediately. Some teens have taken their own lives after the embarrassment of seeing their private sext go public.
Conversations about sexting need to specifically address the issue of forwarding images of other kids – not just taking pictures of yourself and sending them. Teens may not realize that forwarding pictures is still sexting, even if they aren’t the subject of the images.
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.