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Sexting cases have become more widespread as a growing population of high school students send and receive sexually explicit photos, videos, and messages, usually by cell phone. Although some deny understanding the consequences, many who know the risks feel pressured by boyfriends, girlfriends, and peers to respond to requests for suggestive photos. In November 2015, a school in Colorado discovered a sexting ring of more than 100 students. With the absence of laws targeting teen sexting in Colorado and in Oklahoma, “teens who take, send, or receive nude or sexual images of children under the age of 18, including images of themselves, may be prosecuted under child pornography laws”.

Psychology Journals and media outlets have reported on why teens sext, with bullying, intimidation, a need for acceptance, and curiosity topping the list. Regardless of the reason for sexting, teens who sext often experience low self-esteem, a negative self-image, stages of distrust, and a fear of saying no to sexual advances and intercourse. Asking for help or reaching out to adults for guidance and support triggers additional fears. Discovering an explicit picture online has led to more than one teen suicide, assault on the recipient of a photo, and in some states 10- 25 years on a sexual offenders list. Although most teens acknowledge once the photo or video is sent it can be shared, saved, tagged, or re-surface years later, they function on impulse and a false sense of security. This pattern of bad behavior is often attributed to the underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for problem solving; others attribute it to a lack of guidance and parental control. The counselors of Improving Lives Counseling Services specializes in behavioral issues in children, adolescents, and teens.

Talking to your teen about sexting can be challenging. A direct approach might lead to fright, whereas an indirect approach could lead to flight. Parents who discover a teen is sexting often display disbelief, distrust, and anger, leaving the teen feeling embarrassed, untrusted, sorry, and alone; not willing to discuss what inspired the behavior, or ramifications, if any, they are experiencing. Even parents who talk freely about sex and relationships can run into an unexpected wall of emotions when sexting is discussed or discovered.

Sexting in teens is “risky behavior”, however most teens manage to survive – as far as they know that is. Pictures can be left in lost or stolen phones, they can (knowingly and unknowingly) be transferred from one phone to another, uploaded, downloaded, shared, tagged, and copy and pasted. If the taker, sender, or recipient is using a public or shared internet service, the picture can be seen by everyone on that network. Once a picture is online, it is available to family, friends, teachers, future employers, adult websites, and pedophiles.

Sexting can destroy your teen’s life before they begin to live it. The professional staff of Improving Lives Counseling Services have the tools, knowledge, skills, and training necessary to treat behavioral issues, including sexting. Let us start the discussion in a safe, private, protected environment. We offer individual, couple, family, group, and online sessions in six locations. Call us.