After a recent high-school presentation on navigating technology, a female came up to me and said, “What am I doing wrong? Every time I start texting a guy and think he might be in to me, he asks for a naked picture. My dad said it must be something I am doing.”
Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common.
For nearly a decade, I have run a sexting group focused on addressing and correcting sexting behaviors. Throughout my experience, a consistent response from adults is to be upset with their daughters for sexting with little to no understanding of the on-going pressures that they face.
“Boys and girls both sext, but it’s 4X more likely for boys to pressure girls for explicit photos. Pressure can often escalate to harassment and threats for pictures and videos.” (Sheri Madigan, 2018)
In my role as a Clinical Therapist, I review police reports and transcripts across a variety of incidents. Along with hearing females’ stories, it is often very clear how unchecked manipulation and pressure can escalate quickly to a highly intense situation.
Common ways a boy might elicit photos and videos:
- “If you liked me, you would send me a naked picture.”
- “If you don’t send me a pic, I’m going to tell everybody you did.”
- “Come on, you can trust me.”
- “My ex used to send me pictures.”
- “I’m so depressed, and the only thing that can keep me from hurting myself is your naked picture.”
- “Your naked pictures will stop me from cutting.”
Can you imagine the burden this puts on a person?
Teach your children well.
When researching the topic of adolescent sexting, the focus is often on how to defend oneself from a naked photo or video request, or on the ramifications of giving in to the pressure to produce them. Rarely is the focus on the source of the pressure, or on teaching adolescents not to ask for naked photos or videos in the first place.
It is just as important to teach your kids never to ask for naked pictures and videos as it is to teach them how to defend themselves against it.
My message to all individuals is simple: “Don’t ask.”
Something I frequently tell adolescents is to think of an important female in their lives, and then imagine if someone were to pressure them into sending a photo or video. The person you pressure is someone else’s “very important female”. If you don’t want someone else to do it, then you shouldn’t do it either.
Technology Rules 101
#1. Never ask anyone for naked pictures or videos.
#2. If you’re thinking of asking for nude photos or videos, see rule number one.
“When do I have this conversation?”
If the time is right to give a child access to technology, then the time is right to have a conversation about sexting and safety. I have worked with kids as young as ten years old who have been involved in sexting but did not know the name of what they were doing or that it was illegal. I have also worked with elementary school administrators who are reporting sexting is happening in the 4th grade.
“I thought my kids knew the rules.” and, “I didn’t think this would happen.”
Remind your child of the rules often. Adolescents are forgetful. Remember how often you have to ask them to pick up their wet towel, close the refrigerator door, and put the toilet paper on the roll (the right way). Insert the message into your auto-play.
I have worked with over 300 kids caught for sexting and had just as many adults assuming their kids knew better. Nobody is immune.
Sheri Madigan, P. D. (2018, April 1). Prevalence of Sexting Behavior Among Youth. JAMA Pediatrics. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2673719.