Sexting is a combination of “sex” and texting. In other words, sexting is sending or receiving sexually explicit messages via words, emojis, and/or suggestive and nude photos through electronic devices. Although, many may think this is a “tween” or “teen” thing it is certainly not just a teen issue. Sexting can be a form of pornography and can have psychological, emotional and legal consequences.
Here are some of the reasons people give for sexting:
- Form of flirting
- Show of affection for a romantic partner
- A way to feel sexy and gain popularity
- As a joke
- Impulsive behavior while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- A form of safe sex with less “risks”
- Peer pressure, bullying or threats
- Adults soliciting images from minors
Regardless of the reasons people give for sexting, there are better reasons not to sext. Those who engage in sexting are more likely to become sexually active, putting them at risk for unplanned pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections. Sometimes people will share pictures after a break up that were originally meant for only them – a practice sometimes referred to as “revenge porn.”
Once an explicit picture, emoji or word is sent, it is “out there” forever and can be shared and seen by many. When images are seen by others beyond the intended receiver, the consequences can be severe in terms of possible legal prosecution, trouble with school authorities, or “sextortion” which is a type of blackmail in which the person who has the photo uses it to coerce the victim into giving sexual favors in exchange for not distributing the photo to others.
Sexting can also lead to serious social and psychological consequences including bullying, social isolation, shaming, and sever anxiety, fear and depression. The safest way to avoid these consequences is to never create the words or emojis or never take the picture (or allow it to be taken) in the first place.
For more information on what to do if someone sends you explicit content, or asks you to send explicit content to them, visit ConnectSafely.org.