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Q&A: How do we convince our teen that "sexting" is harmful?
By Focus On The Family
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Question:

We recently discovered that our teenage daughter has been involved in "sexting" – sending and receiving sexually explicit messages and photos over her mobile phone. When confronted about this, she claimed that this kind of activity is harmless since it doesn’t involve any physical sexual contact. How would you respond to this argument?

Answer:

Perhaps the first thing your daughter needs to know is that this apparently "harmless" activity is potentially illegal. She could face arrest and prosecution for sharing or receiving explicit pictures over the phone. Photos of this nature are considered pornographic. If their subjects are minors, the pictures fall into the category of child pornography. As you probably know, Australia has strict laws against the distribution of child porn in any form. This is not to mention that phone-transmitted photographs can be forwarded so many times that an individual’s privacy is completely compromised. We have heard reports of a young woman so devastated that she ended her own life after her photo was passed along to nearly every student in her high school.

Naïve assumption

On a deeper level, it’s naïve to assume that no one is hurt by "sexting" simply because it does not involve actual physical contact. That argument ignores the profound emotional, psychological, moral and spiritual aspects of human sexuality. Scripture takes a holistic view of sex, describing it as nothing less than a whole-life, one-flesh union between a man and a woman within the context of a committed marital relationship (Genesis 2:24). It’s impossible to indulge in the counterfeit intimacy of "sexting" without distorting one’s perception of this holistic relationship and cheapening the meaning of real love. Such distortion can negatively influence a young person’s future relationship with a spouse, as well as erode self-esteem, self-respect and a sense of personal identity.

What to do

What can we do to counteract this disturbing trend? The technological dimensions of the problem make it particularly difficult to resolve. On a practical level, parents must develop and maintain technological savvy so that they can keep pace with the ways in which mobile phones and the Internet can be utilised. Mums and dads must warn their children about sexual predators who are all too eager to exploit young people. Before a teen ever starts using a mobile phone, he or she must understand that it is never acceptable to exchange sexual photos or messages with anyone for any reason. In fact, if parents decide that their teen is mature enough to have a mobile phone, we’d suggest that it would be wise to advise them that random spot checks can be expected in order to ensure that it is being used appropriately. Open communication between parents and children is more vital than ever, for this is the only avenue for providing the protection and guidance they need.

One thing is certain: as concerned parents, leaders, and Christians, we must recommit to teaching young men and women God-honouring principles of sexuality, healthy self-esteem, and respect for self and for others. It’s especially important for young women to grasp an understanding of their true identity, purpose, and worth which can only be defined by the Creator. This is crucial if the younger generation is to overcome the current cultural obsession with physical appearance and immoral expressions of sexuality.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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