Sexting is the term used to describe creating and sending sexually explicit pictures or texts between mobile phones. It is a combination of the words sex and texting, but can also sometimes be used to describe the same practice in online chat rooms, email and virtual worlds.
Many young people receive these messages from friends, and can forward them on to others using their phones or other online methods. These pictures can be made using mobile phone cameras or webcams, which can sometimes be seen as creating child pornography in the eyes of the law.
Sexting and the Law
There have been some high profile cases where children and teens have been in trouble with the law by sending and forwarding on these types of messages [link]. Some young people have been charged with distribution of child pornography and given a criminal record by distributing ‘sexts’. Others have been registered as sex offenders, a label that will stand by them for life [link].
Parents should keep an eye out for these text messages as potentially children and teens can be convicted of distributing child pornography and get a permanent criminal record. On a more practical note, sexting can cause severe emotional distress, and can be used to bully, harrass and embarrass other young people.
How can I stop my child from receiving these types of messages?
Unfortunately, other than taking their mobile phone away or preventing them from using the Internet, it is nearly impossible to monitor all incoming and outgoing messages. Nowadays, all phones have a camera so options are limited, but you can disable incoming image messages to your child’s phone, which would stop them from receiving any unwanted ‘sexts’.
The other matter of sexually explicit text is a more difficult issue, as children can invent acronyms and code words that parents might not understand. The best practice is talk to them about sexting and make them be open to you about any problems or questions they might have about it.