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Learn, talk about sexting (nudes)

Updated: May 10, 2023

Imagine this: Olivia, 12, heard that a girl sent a picture of her breasts to a boy in her class. Olivia really liked the boy and decided to send him a similar picture, too. So she did. But now Olivia is in trouble. The boy sent Olivia’s picture to his friends and they are threatening her they’ll send the picture to everyone they know. Olivia is so confused. She didn’t know that sending the picture would get her in trouble. Also, she didn’t know that the consequences could potentially lead to school suspension and even criminal issues.

Jennifer Bellamy, family advocate for the Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center, urges parents to learn about sexting and to teach their children about the dangers of sending nudes.

“Sexting is a significant problem related to children’s safety,” said Joyce Prusak, executive director of Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center. “Sexting is the sharing of sexually explicit images, videos or messages through digital devices, and youth sexting has increased in recent years.”

Some of those sexually-explicit materials – often called nudes – are made and shared by children as young as 7 or 8 years old, according to Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC). This material can be considered child pornography, and there are serious consequences for anyone involved in taking those pictures or sharing them.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows sexting is increasingly becoming a common practice among youth. It’s essential to provide the community – adults and youth – with information about sexting and its consequences.

The study found: 15% of youth have sent sexts; 27% of youth have received sexts; 12% of youth have forwarded a sext without consent; 8% of youth have had sexts they’ve sent forwarded without their consent.

Youth are more likely to send and receive sexts with increasing age. The higher prevalence rates with age corresponds with the fact that older youth have greater access to devices and are more likely to own a smartphone compared with younger youth. Boys and girls send and receive sexts, with no substantial sex differences in the rate of sending or receiving sexts, according to the study.

“Children in Coffee County are no exception,” Prusak said.

School personnel, healthcare professionals and parents should be concerned about sexting, learn about it and have conversations with youth about the dangers of sexting and its consequences. Parents must learn about the damaging impact of sending nudes and to communicate with their children in order to protect them. Parents must have transparent, honest and age-appropriate talks with their children about content sharing, beginning as soon as children have access to technological devices.

Conversations with youth should be clear and include explanations and reasoning as to why youth should not send, not ask for, and not share sexts.

What should the sender of nudes know?

When someone is asked to send a nude, the decision should be “no.” Make that decision before anyone asks for a sexually explicit text and be prepared to say no. Plan and practice your response to the requester. It’s important to remember that once you send the sext, you have no control over it. If you learn of an incident, report the incident to the cyber tipline, school resource officer, law enforcement or counselor.

What should the requester of nudes know?

Parents should teach their children that it is wrong to ask for sexts. Asking for nudes is an abuse of power. Serious consequences follow asking for and receiving sexts, including suspension from school, sport teams and extracurricular activities. Sexting may also lead to legal issues and criminal penalties.

What should the sharer of nudes know?

Sharing information that was sent to you is a gross violation of trust. Sharing sexts is cyber abuse and may bring legal and criminal issues. Consequences of sharing sexts include suspension from school, sport team and extracurricular activities.

How to start the conversation?

A movie scene depicting someone doing something inappropriate or just a talk about the day at school may spark a conversation. Teach children it is wrong to send, ask for or share sexts. The following questions will help you start a conversation with your child: Has anyone asked you to send a nude? What would you do if someone asks? Do you know children who have sent nudes? How do you feel about that? Have you heard of children sharing nudes without consent? What do you think about that? Have you ever received nudes? What did you do? What do you think happens to children if a nude is found on someone’s phone?

When you speak with your child, ask questions and listen. Help your child feel comfortable about telling you the truth. As you talk with your, incorporate information that senders, requesters and sharers of nudes should know.

This information was compiled from ICAC resources.

If you suspect a child has been sexually exploited online, call the 24-hour hotline at 1-800-843-5678.

For more information about child abuse prevention follow Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center on social media and explore Coffee County CAC provides services for children who have experienced severe abuse. The center’s programs and services include family advocacy, forensic interviews, prevention education, therapy and medical exams. All services are free for children and their families.

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