Kids sending sex messages as young as 12 – how to deal with children ‘sexting’

By admin
16 January 2014

No parent wants to hear their precious little angel is engaging in something meant to be reserved for adults. But the truth is children with access to cellphones are increasingly engaging in sexting (that’s sex texting for the uninitiated).

No parent wants to hear their precious little angel is engaging in something meant to be reserved for adults. But the truth is children with access to cellphones are increasingly engaging in sexting (that’s sex texting for the uninitiated).

About a quarter of American teens between the ages of 12 and 14 exchange sexually explicit text or multimedia messages on a regular basis, according to a new study published in Pediatrics. Although there are no South African figures anecdotal evidence suggests the practise is on the rise. Sexting is fairly new to parents – making it difficult to deal with. “It is different to other sexual games in the past that teens were involved in,” says child psychologist Dr Jolanda Dreyer. “Sexting is easy because it doesn’t require personal interaction and it is faster, so more can be done in a short space to give that instant gratification feeling.” More than 20% of high school learners in South Africa were at some point approached with “unwanted talk about sex”, a study conducted by UNISA’s Youth Research Unit of the Bureau of Market Research and Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) showed.

'Sexting is easy because it doesn’t require personal interaction and it is faster'

A further 16% had sexual details about themselves requested and almost 10% indicated they had been asked to perform some sexual act on their mobile phones.

The figures are worrying. Teens who engage in sexting risk the possibility of the pictures or text leaked and could even be charged for possession of child pornography.

It could lead to other serious consequences, experts say. “Sexting is certainly a problem because it also increases the chance of the child actually engaging in sexual activities if not stopped from the very beginning,” Dr Dreyer says.

So what can parents do? Dr Dreyer gives a few practical tips.

1. Have a trusting relationship with your teen: establishing an open relationship is the golden thread – be open and approachable to encourage honesty and trust. They need to know they can tell you things without you freaking out.

2. Age: consider the age of a child before buying them a smartphone. Are they mature enough to deal with the responsibility?

3. Monitor:most of the time parents pay for the cellphone bill  so monitor their activities.

4. Set boundaries: both the parent and child should sit down and draw up a contract to clearly state acceptable and unacceptable usage of the phone. Ground rules are important – they should be set by both the parent and child with consequences clearly stated.

5. Sex education: give your child age appropriate sex education. If not comfortable with personally doing it, take them to a professional. Sex education should not be left to classrooms or groups – it should be a one-on-one team effort

- Koketso Mashika

Extra sources: thedailybeast.com ; cjcp.org.za

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