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As a teen, what should I know about sexting?

Engaging in sexting is a dangerous activity for teens. It can have adverse side effects and the consequences can be life-long. Research shows that approximately 20-30 percent of teens have sent and/or received a sext. Plus, according to research those teens who are sexting or propositioned to send a sext are more likely than their peers to have sexual intercourse.

What is sexting?

Sexting is sending, receiving, or forwarding sexual photos or sexually suggestive messages through text message or email. While the term "Sext" has been around since about 2005, the idea of exchanging or recording sexual material isn't a new concept. Historically sexual material has been distributed by means of: drawings, photographs, and videos. Then along came the internet through which electronic devices and social media outlets have changed the game of sexual exchanges. These modern technology advances have made sexual exchanges much easier and more powerful than ever before. With a click of a button a picture can be distributed to many people instantaneously—and once it's out there, there's no going back.

What are the emotional and legal consequences?

Emotionally

Emotionally sexting can take a toll on a teen, especially if it backfires and gets into the wrong hands. Teens have a unique ability to feel like they're invincible. So, even though they may know that sexting is wrong, they don't think they're going to get caught.

Another emotional catch is that sexting may lead to bullying for the teen whose photos have been solicited to others. This creates a harsh world for a teen to live. Oftentimes they don't reach out for help because of embarrassment and disappointment, fear of making it worse, or fear of getting into trouble. To many teens they may feel like they're caught in a trap with no way out.

Also, sexting can compromise reputations. Not just social reputations but digital reputations. Once a photo is out, there's no way of knowing how many people have saved it, tagged it, shared it, etc. Unfortunately the photo could re-surface years after it was taken and posted. Plus, more and more college reps and prospective employers are seeking information about candidates and they're doing this online. What they find may sway their decision.

Legally

Visit this link to find the laws in your state:
http://im.about.com/od/sexting/United_States_Sexting_Laws.htm
www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/sexting-legislation-2012.aspx

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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.