#teensexting | #sexting | What you need to know about sexting

As technology constantly evolves parents and guardians have to be vigilant of the many threats which their teenagers may face.

Mike Bolhuis specialist investigator into serious violent and serious economic crimes of Specialised Security Services warned parents, guardians and teens of the dangers of sexting which could lead to sextortion.

He urged caregivers to be vigilant and to take the responsibility to educate not only their children but also themselves.

“Sexting is most prevalent from the age of 15–years – old and over,” explained Bolhuis.

“A total of 17% of people interviewed said that they had shared a nude or sexual photo of themselves. Sexting accelerates quickly in the mid-teens, from 4% at the age of 13 to 7% at the age of 14.”

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Which apps are most used

The legality of sexting in SA
•Sexting is a criminal offence for under 18’s in South Africa.
•The law does not make any exception for under age people creating, possessing or sharing such material between themselves.
•When children engage in sexting, they create an indecent image of a person under the age of 18 (even if it is an image of themselves), which is against the law.
•Distributing such an image via any form of text/social media is also illegal.
•Sending a naked selfie if you are under the age of 18 can be a criminal offence.

The impact of sexting from a psychological and neurological perspective is complicated

As children enter adolescence (around the age of 12-years-old) several changes are occurring in their brains.
•They begin to develop their identity.
•They move away from their parents and move towards their peers.
•They begin to develop sexually as they move towards puberty.
•During this period (12 – 25 years old), young people start to experiment with who they are, and they start to try out new behaviours.
•This is the most vulnerable age for sexting as they enter romantic and sexual relationships.

The impact on the teenager’s brain
• Technology is the enabler for trying new behaviour.
• There are no complex intricacies of non-verbal communication: no looks of disgust or disapproval.
• Without this normal, interactive and immediate negative feedback, the teenager can easily make errors in judgement or take greater risks.
• The young person will only receive a response or feedback after sending the nude photo.
• The child will wait in anticipation of this delayed response.
• In this process, a boost of the chemical dopamine will be released.
• Dopamine is our “reward” chemical and makes any person, of any age, feel good about what we have done.
• This “reward” will escalate the risky behaviour.
• If the child receives a positive response, this sets the process down in the brain.
• If the child receives a negative response by a semblance of disgust, shame sets in.

Possible consequences of sexting
• Emotional distress.
• Sexual bullying when others make presumptions of the child’s sexual activity.
• Revenge porn the sharing or distribution of nude or sexually explicit material of someone without their permission, to specifically humiliate them or to take revenge on them.
• Disabling reputation.
• Negative effect on education and employment prospects.
• Self-harm.
• Exposure to child pornography and grooming by sexual predators.
• Sextortion a type of blackmail where someone is forced to perform sexual acts online, send sexualised pictures of themselves, or pay money to avoid the initial photographs or videos of them, being shared with their family, friends or employer.

Sexts never go away
• Once sent, any images are out of your control.
• They can be shared, copied and re-posted.
• People and even predators have learned how to copy and save images before apps such as Snapchat, delete them.

Possible signs of sexting
• Increased secrecy
• If your child becomes overly protective of their cell phone and hide their screen from public view
• Grade changes
• A change of friends
• If you check your child’s social media accounts and notice an increase in flirty photos and language or friends who do the same
• An increase in screen time
• If your child leaves the room to talk or text, and insist on using their phone from a private place
• If the is an increase in your child’s anger and defensiveness

While children may try to normalize sexting, your child knows sending a racy photo on a device is risky.

Hiding that behaviour can cause anger and defensiveness. Your child also likely knows about the specific risks associated with sexting — things like sextortion, revenge porn, bullying, a damaged reputation, anxiety, and depression.

However, they may be in denial that the consequences apply to her personally.

What to do if someone threatens to sextort you or your child
• Do not delete any of the messages received.
• Take screenshots of the threats from the scammer as these can be used as evidence.
• Talk to someone you can trust.
• Contact a specialist in this type of crime.
• Discontinue all communication with the scammer.
• Report the extortionist to the messaging or social platform, on which they are contacting you.
• Sextortion is traumatic for any person at any age.
• Contact a trusted counsellor to help you and your child deal with this ordeal.

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