BY BRIAN BASON
Today’s technological advances benefit the world in innumerable ways but those benefits come with risks. Sexting and sextortion – particularly among teens and even preteens – is a growing risk of technology use for your grandkids. Understanding what these terms mean and how to talk with your grandkids about them is very important. This is not an easy thing for parents or grandparents to talk to kids about. But, sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy, and if you are close with your grandchildren, it might be easier for them to talk about sensitive topics with you than it is with their parents.
However, because the topic is so personal, we recommend you speak with your adult children first to let them know your thoughts on approaching the grandkids with this.
The term “sexting” is a hybrid slang term to describe the taking and sending of nude or otherwise sexual photographs via text messaging or instant messaging services. According to studies published in Pediatrics, a leading medical journal, most sexting occurs via text messaging and never makes it to the Internet. Sexting may also be verbal and include suggestive and sexually explicit texts about sexual acts.
Sexting between two consenting adults is perfectly legal. However, when children under the age of 18 are involved, child pornography and sexual exploitation laws are easily broken. Though adults are prosecuted for sending sexually explicit messages to children under 18, there’s a bit of a gray area in the law regarding teenagers. Children under 18 who send graphic images or text to other children under 18 may be prosecuted under child pornography laws, though some states have Romeo and Juliet statutes in effect as an exception. The legal repercussions can be serious and it’s up to educated and engaged parents to monitor and safeguard their children.
“ The right way to handle sexting and sextortion depends on the victim’s age.”
How to Handle Sexting and Sextortion
The right way to handle sexting and sextortion depends on the victim’s age. For aggravated sexting, which is the act of sending sexually explicit photos to others without their consent, or after the victim has asked the perpetrator to stop, there are protective laws. Cases may be filed as harassment, stalking, sexual harassment, or even extortion statutes. Additionally, underage sexting is often illegal even if it is consensual. The laws on underage sexting have not always kept up with technology, vary by state, and are often prosecuted under child pornography statutes. While some states have Romeo and Juliet exceptions to the general child pornography statutes, many of them do not. This means that if a child sends or receives and keeps
The laws on underage sexting have not always kept up with technology, vary by state, and are often prosecuted under child pornography statutes. While some states have Romeo and Juliet exceptions to the general child pornography statutes, many of them do not. This means that if a child sends or receives and keeps explicit material of underage peers, they could be charged with child pornography crimes that come with heavy penalties. To find out more about juvenile sexting laws, you can check out this article by Criminal Defense Lawyer.
8 Tips For Talking With Your GRANDKids about Sexting and Sextortion:
- Proactive Approach. Take a proactive approach and start discussing the ramifications of sexting with your teen and preteen grandkids, using age-appropriate language.
- Ongoing Communication. Assure your grandchild that they can come to you with questions, concerns, and any uncomfortable text or images they receive. You’re there to help them navigate online issues and can be trusted to support them with their concerns.
- Ask Questions. Find out their thinking process, ask what they think about sexting and why people do it. Is it peer pressure or is it part of what they think is expected of a romantic relationship?
- Express Consequences. Explain the legal and reputation consequences that can occur. Remind them it is extremely easy for these images to get out of their control.
- Create an Action Plan: If they have sent an explicit image, find out where it has been sent and remove the images. Remove images from any devices. You can also request the images be removed if they have been posted by someone else on a social media account.
- Discuss consent. Talk about consent and trust in healthy relationships and remind them not to forward explicit messages they see or receive, but to report them to a trusted adult who can help delete them and contact the appropriate people.
- Report to Law Enforcement. Check into the laws of your state, it is illegal in many states for adults to engage in sexual content with an underage child even if it is not an explicit exchange of photos.
- Provide Resources: Come up with some ready-to-use comebacks or use sites like Send This Instead for humorous and empowering response messages to requests for explicit photos or messages.
Common Sense Media
Megan Meier Foundation
About the Author
Brian Bason is CEO of Bark, a digital parenting solution to monitor kids’ digital behaviors. Brian founded Bark as a solution to help parents work together with their children to navigate the dangers of today’s digital world. An entrepreneur with more 15 years of experience as a technology product lead and executive, Brian is also a parent who knew he could address a critical void in Internet safety solutions Brian graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Physics. He resides in Georgia with his wife and two children.
Additional resources: Home Alone After School: A Safety Guide For Kids