Why might a teen engage in sexting?

Erik Fisher
Sexting involves people, mostly teens, taking nude pictures of themselves and sending them using their cell phones to others. This action has resulted in some teens being charged with violations of Child Pornography laws.

So many kids in this generation have grown up in the age of reality shows, and so many of them will do almost anything for attention and to try to "fit in." We have had Survivor, Fear Factor, Big Brother, and Jackass grace the screens of our television, movie theaters and internet for almost a decade, and the ability for children, tweens and teens to see these can influence the way they look at society and themselves. Aren't they just doing what they have been taught?

There is a desensitization to privacy, intimacy and self-respect that is, in part a symptom of the media phenomena and our culture. When I can turn on the TV or the computer and see Jack Ass-type behaviors anywhere I turn, it sends that idea that doing the extreme can get me attention, and where there is attention, there may be acceptance and possibly love and belongingness, at any cost. And when I want to fit in and/or stand out in the crowd, taking a dare or doing the extreme will help me achieve that end. Sexting is a way to feel powerful, and in some ways I think it can inappropriately be viewed as personal P.R. in a competitive market for attention and even potential fame.

We seem to live in an extreme time, and what people used to feel was a "dare never to be done" is potentially becoming run-of-the-mill. Many kids have not lost their self-respect as much as they have maybe never learned how to find it. Searching for approval, acceptance, what they think is love and instant gratification is likely what the goal is.

Why are teens sexting?

They may be curious...

Sex creates curiosity, which leads to exploration and experimentation - especially with teens. This is not a new thing and it's completely normal. Teens may be curious as to what others look like naked and also easily aroused by nudity.

They may be pressured...

Peer pressure to participate in sex could be another reason teens are succumbing to sending racy pics of themselves.

They may be in love....

Remember your first love? To the love-stricken teen it's easy to cave to the pressure when you think "this is the one." You believe with all of your heart this is the person you're destined to be with for eternity. To you this person is trustworthy and you would do anything, and I mean anything, for them. To the teen who's in need of this type of attention or in need of love and acceptance, he/she may give in and do something he'll/she'll later regret.

They may not be thinking...

There's a special part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (aka the CEO of the brain) that is responsible for problem solving, impulse control, and weighing out options. Unfortunately for teens, this area of the brain is not fully developed. In fact, it doesn't fully mature until the early to mid-twenties. So, while we expect our teens to know better, the fact is there are some physiological reasons teens think they're invincible.

As many as 82 percent of teens engage in sexting, according to psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein. Learn why by watching the video. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.