Today’s teens live in an age in which technology and the internet are readily accessible, which means that remaining connected is fairly simple. Due to the availability of various apps created specifically for mobile phones, teens are able to post about intimate details of their lives and message their friends in a matter of seconds.
As a result, the act of sending or forwarding a sexually explicit image, either of oneself or of another, is relatively uncomplicated. For many teens, sexting is a normalized way to maintain an active sex life, whether or not one is in a relationship.
According to Drexel University, roughly half of all teens engage in sexting before the age of 18. Though sexting may reap benefits such as heightened self-esteem and improved sexual satisfaction, many teens are not aware of the various consequences that accompany the act of sexting.
According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, “making, possessing and distributing any imagery of someone under 18 (including yourself) which is ‘indecent’ is illegal.”
“Indecent” images are typically defined as images which display naked or topless young people, genitalia, or sex acts. Distribution of such images constitutes distribution of child pornography, which is illegal under federal law in all states.
“If charged, the [young person] will be registered as a sex offender,” Granada Hills Charter High School nurse Crystal Ngo said.
The consequences of sexting can even follow a teen to adulthood. Teens with criminal records can face discrimination in education, housing, and employment.
Additionally, sexts, if leaked, can be used for sexual bullying. Once a sext is sent, the sender no longer has control over to whom the image is sent, and the reputation of the teen depicted in the image may be irreparably tarnished. Such a public form of humiliation can often lead to the deterioration of a teen’s mental health and the development of anxiety and depression.
Upon the distribution of a teen’s explicit image, he or she becomes vulnerable to blackmailers and sexual predators. When a teen sends a sexually explicit image, it can easily be shared on public forums or popular websites, making the teen vulnerable to sexual exploitation. According to Childline, many sexual predators use sexting as a “grooming” technique, gaining the trust of vulnerable teens in order to take sexual advantage of them.
Sending sexual images may seem to be a harmless way of maintaining a healthy sexual relationship with another, but the consequences of doing so are numerous and cannot be undone. Sexting may make a teen susceptible to sexual predators or establish permanent sexual offender status; even as adults, leaked sexts can compromise an individual’s reputation or personal career. Regardless of whether or not you are in a committed relationship, take precautions to ensure that you are engaging in safe online behavior — your life is far too valuable to risk.