As parents, we know that taking certain risks is a
natural part of development for teens. However, a
recent study reveals a new trend in sexual risk-taking
that can have unhealthy and even dangerous
implications for our youth. One in five teen girls
(22%) - and 11% of teen girls ages 13-16 years old -
say they have electronically sent, or posted online,
nude or semi-nude images of themselves. Almost
one in five teen boys (18%) say they have sent or
posted nude/semi nude images of themselves.
According to the results of a survey conducted by The
National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned
Pregnancy and Cosmogirl.com, these racy images
are also getting passed around: One-third (33%) of
teen boys and one-quarter (25%) of teen girls say they
have had nude/semi-nude images - originally meant
to be private - shared with them.
Furthermore, the survey of 1,280 teens and young
adults, conducted by TRU, a global leader in research
on teens and young adults, indicates that 15% of
teens who have sent sexually suggestive content such
as text messages, email, photographs or video say
they have done so with someone they only know
The study also reveals that what teens are doing
electronically seems to have an effect on what they do
in real life. Nearly one-quarter of teens (22%) admit
that technology makes them personally more forward
and aggressive. More than one-third (38%) say
exchanging sexy content makes dating or "hooking
up" with others more likely and nearly one-third of
teens (29%) believe those exchanging sexy content
are "expected" to date or hook up.
While being tech savy can be seen as a positive for
today's teenagers, the study reveals there's also a
negative side. Teenagers need to be made aware of
the real consequences to this type of behavior and
parents need to provide them with guidance and
encourage them to make smart choices. When
talking to teens about this issue, parents need to
understand that their own notion of what's public,
what's private, and what's appropriate, may differ
greatly from how teens and young adults define these
Here are five tips from The National Campaign to
help parents talk to their kids about sex and
www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech, Tips for
Teens for tips for your child - 5 things that kids should
think about before pressing "send")
Just as you need to talk openly and honestly with
your kids about real life sex and relationships, you
also want to discuss online and cell phone activity.
Make sure your kids fully understand that messages
or pictures they send over the Internet or their cell
phone are not truly private or anonymous. Also make
sure they know that others might forward their pictures
or messages to people they do not know or want to
see them, and that school administrators and
employers often look at online profiles to make
judgments about potential students/employees. It's
essential that your kids grasp the potential short-term
and long-term consequences of their actions.
- Talk to your kids about what they are doing in
Of course it's a given that you want to
know who your children are spending time with when
they leave the house. Also do your best to learn who
your kids are spending time with online and on the
phone. Supervising and monitoring your kids'
whereabouts in real life and cyberspace doesn't make
you a nag; it's just part of your job as a parent. Many
young people consider someone a "friend" even if
they've only met online. What about your kids?
- Know who your kids are communicating with.
The days of having to talk on the phone
in the kitchen in front of the whole family are long
gone, but you can still limit the time your kids spend
online and on the phone. Consider, for example,
telling your teen to leave the phone on the kitchen
counter when they're at home and to take the laptop
out of their bedroom before they go to bed, so they
won't be tempted to log on or talk to friends at 2 a.m.
- Consider limitations on electronic
Check out your teen's MySpace,
Facebook and other public online profiles from time to
time. This isn't snooping - this is information your
kids are making public. If everyone else can look at it,
why can't you? Talk with them specifically about their
own notions of what is public and what is private.
Your views may differ but you won't know until you ask,
listen, and discuss.
- Be aware of what your teens are posting
Make sure you are clear with your teen
about what you consider appropriate "electronic"
behavior. Just as certain clothing is probably off-limits
or certain language unacceptable in your house,
make sure you let your kids know what is and is not
allowed online either. And give reminders of those
expectations from time to time. It doesn't mean you
don't trust your kids, it just reinforces that you care
about them enough to be paying attention.