Sunday, June 23, 2013

Teen Cyber Sex: What's a Parent to Do?

Below is an excerpt from a blog by Rob Weiss - former director of the Sexual Recovery Institute and expert on sexual behavior and sexual addiction.

Many parents also worry that their kids will be exposed to online pornography. This, too, is a legitimate concern. In today’s world if a boy (or girl) is curious about sex all he or she needs to do is find a porn site and click a button that says “Yes, I’m 18.” There is no need to display a driver’s license as proof of age, and no need to borrow a parent’s credit card to pay. Simply put, pornography of every ilk imaginable is now ubiquitous, available to anyone, anytime, on almost any digital device, and more often than not it’s free. Even kids who aren’t actively seeking porn can easily be exposed to inappropriate content. Frankly, the number of seemingly innocuous words that bring up porn sites when typed into an Internet search engine is shocking.
The undeniable fact is nowadays children encountering pornography is extremely common. In one 2008 survey of 594 college students (median age 19 years), 93 percent of male students and 62 percent of female students said they’d seen online pornography prior to age 18. Typically the age of first exposure was reported to be between the ages of 14 and 17.[ii] Keep in mind, this study was conducted in 2008,before the current online porn explosion. More recent research suggests the average age of first exposure to Internet porn is now 11.[iii] Again, next week’s blog will discuss ways to shield your kids from online porn exposure (and other inappropriate content and contact).

Now that computers and smartphones have built-in digital cameras and webcams, it is incredibly easy for a kid to impulsively take a provocative self-photo and send it to another person. Unfortunately, once that image is sent the child loses all control over it; the recipient may keep it private, forward it to others, or post it online for public viewing. For many teens, sexted images are redefining what it means to have a bad break-up, as resentful former boyfriends or girlfriends can send and/or post an ex’s nude image pretty much anywhere, anytime.
Of further concern is the fact that when minors sext a photo, even to other teens, they are (usually unwittingly) violating laws that prohibit the making and dissemination of child pornography. Numerous teens have been arrested and charged with this offense. In one particularly nasty incident a 16-year old girl accidentally uploaded a nude photo of herself to a social networking site. Although she quickly deleted the image, another teen from her school had already seen and downloaded it. He then threatened to distribute it if she didn’t send him more pictures. When she refused, he forwarded the photo to about 100 other people at their school. This boy was later arrested and charged with a felony. Eventually he pled guilty and was placed on probation.
Although teen sexting has received a lot of media attention because of its shock value, it is actually somewhat uncommon. Only about 1 percent of kids say they have knowingly created, sent, or appeared in sexually explicit imagery. So, media fear-mongering aside, it appears that only a small minority of teens actually sext. Those who do engage in experimental sexting may face school expulsion or even arrest as a consequence, though most do not. That said, for a teenaged girl or boy, having one’s nude picture passed around one’s high-school or posted online can be a far worse (and longer lasting) punishment than anything the legal system might dish out.

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