“If you really loved me…”
That is what led twelve year old Michaela Snyder to engage in sexting with her crush who was also in the same grade. The boy was issuing threats that he would end the relationship if she didn’t send him intimate pictures. After talking with her peers and continuing pressure from the boy, she finally gave in by snapping and sending a pic in her underwear to him.
Michaela admits that it was a bad choice, but she agreed to sext anyway. Soon the young boy began begging for more explicit photos. Thankfully, her parents were frequently monitoring her cell phone and stumbled upon the images. Michaela’s sexting came to a screeching halt, but not before the images had damaged her reputation.
Is Sexting Normal?
Michaela was initially hesitant about sexting, but her peers seemed to accept this practice. The girls, who were also seventh graders and similar ages, told her to send the photos. Their advice was simple: it’s normal and we are all doing it.
Many experts believe that sexting is a normal way to explore a teen’s budding sexual development. They rationalize that technology is the only thing that has changed how children fulfill their natural curiosity. Sexting is merely this generation’s high tech version of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.”
Teen Sexting By The Numbers
Teens often see sexting as a safe alternative to sexual intercourse. There is no risk for sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy, but they are still able to connect with another person on a more intimate level. It is easy for us as parents to believe that our teens are not partaking in this pastime, but listed below are some surprising facts:
- 1 out of 5 sexters are pressured or coerced to sext with threats from their partner
- 70% of teens who sext send images to their partner
- 17% of sexters will ultimately pass on the images with 55% of them sharing sexts with more than one person
- 15% of teens who sext send these messages to people they have never personally met, just friended online
- 77% of teen boys sext to initiate sexual contact
Sext Education For Teens And Parents
Michaela’s story is troubling for parents, because it is a prime example of how one moment captured on social media or with a cell phone can create a living nightmare for our children. This sexting story has another shocking element that drives home this point.
It turns out that Michaela’s father is a Police Sergeant in Minneapolis who just happens to investigate sex crimes involving juveniles. Her parents believed that they had educated Michaela about the dangers of sexting and were completely shocked when they learned the truth. They had used open communication and warned about the dangers of sexting, yet their daughter still experimented with these behaviors.
If a trained police sergeant was surprised that his own daughter was sexting, what does that mean for the rest of us ordinary parents? Unfortunately, telling our children to “just say no” to sexting won’t stop it from happening.
Here are two ways parents can go beyond relying on sext education and social media etiquette to keep our teens safe:
- Do away with unlimited data plans. A recent study from the University of New Hampshire found that limiting data is the best deterrent for sexting.
- Actively monitor a teen’s Internet or cell phone activity. Let your teen know you will be checking in from time to time by using their passwords or an app that allows you access to all their accounts.
In Michaela’s own words, she sends caution to all parents and teens, by saying, “I want girls to realize we are worth more than our bodies. I want parents to not be naive and think, ‘My kid is too good, they’re not going to do that.’”
For more information on the sexting trend, please read the following infographic:
~~Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be~~