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Sexting: When Porn Gets Personal

Posted by Axis on April 16, 2020

Today’s culture teaches teens that rebellion is part of growing up, that hiding one’s actions from prying eyes is normal, and that sex is no big deal. Because of that, sexting has become normalized—everyone does it! Right? 

Whether your teens attend public school, private school, or homeschool, they are not immune to the influence of our culture, thanks to the ubiquity of the internet and smartphones. At some point, they or their friends will be tempted by the ease, seeming playfulness, and safety (no risk of pregnancy OR face-to-face rejection) that sexting offers.

With the freedom, limited physical interaction, and exorbitant amount of screen time that quarantine has brought about, sexting is easier than ever. In fact, a simple search for “sexting and quarantine” leads to countless articles explaining (language) why sexting isn’t just okay, it’s encouraged. We can’t afford not to talk about this with our teens (no matter how uncomfortable we may feel), because if we don’t, our culture’s loud voice will fill that void in a heartbeat.

(We’re hosting a webinar on sexuality Friday, April 17! Find it on our Facebook page at 1:00 MT. You don’t want to miss this.)

What is “sexting”?

A combo of “sex” and “texting,” it’s literally sending sexually explicit messages via electronic device (computer, smartphone, tablet). This can mean saying sexual things via words and emojis, as well as sending suggestive or nude photos. 

And no, simply going through your kid’s photos won’t tell you whether or not they’re engaging in sexting. Unfortunately, there are many ways to hide nude photos. Apps like these all appear to be regular phone apps but actually turn into secret vaults of files that can only be accessed via a secret code. Also, photos can be taken, sent, and deleted immediately to hide one’s tracks. Or, as seen above, they could be sending sexts via messaging apps of which you’re not aware or sending “encoded” messages via emojis.

How to talk to your teen about sexting

  • Take a few deep breaths. Whether you’ve discovered your child is already sexting or whether it just makes you angry to know that sexting and the pressure to do so is a thing, reacting out of elevated emotion can frustrate and alienate your child. Don’t deal with the issue until you’ve had time to calm down.
  • Get perspective. If your child has been sexting, let us reassure you: You’re not a bad parent! Whatever guilt, shame, anger, sadness, frustration, or defeat you’re feeling is real—but it’s also not true. Your child could have been raised flawlessly but still make this choice because he/she is an autonomous individual. So rather than letting it discourage you, be encouraged! You have a beautiful opportunity to tell your story, admit what you’ve pursued in the past that was not fulfilling, and bring your child into a deeper understanding of and relationship with the Lord because of this situation.
  • Offer something better. Realize that, more than anything else, the underlying issue is the fact that teens’ imaginations have been hijacked to believe that sexting will fulfill them more deeply than following God’s plan for sex, sexuality, and beauty. So rather than coming down on them, we need to offer them a better story to live into. If we don’t do that, they may demonstrate a change in behavior for a time, but because they still believe that something is better than God’s best for them, eventually they’ll pursue another harmful behavior in search of fulfillment. We can offer that better story by explaining why God set things up the way He did and how it leads to true, lifelong fulfillment. We also need to explain (and model) what true fulfillment looks like. 
  • Ask questions. If your child has been caught or confessed to sexting, take some time to ask questions before rendering judgment and/or discipline. Why were they sexting? How did it make them feel? Had they considered the consequences? Would they do it again? Why or why not? Often, asking questions will help you see where their hearts are and potentially even help them to decide for themselves that they shouldn’t keep sexting.
  • Establish boundaries. There should be consequences. Becoming an adult means learning to deal with consequences, not avoiding them. So sheltering children from all consequences only keeps them from learning the skills necessary to become well-adjusted Christ-followers. But that doesn’t mean these consequences should be punitive or come from a place of anger. Instead, calmly explain to your child why they are having privileges revoked, tell them that it hurts you to have to do it, and offer a vision of what you hope for for them in the future. Then clearly outline the steps they will have to take in order to regain and retain privileges, making sure they know the stakes are higher—both in terms of privileges and self-damage—if the sexting continues.
  • Create accountability. Work with other adults you trust to create a system of accountability for the whole family, not just for your children. Your kids will be much more willing to submit to accountability if they see you doing the same. Sometimes, our kids have good hearts and great intentions, but when the temptation becomes overwhelming, they need someone fighting with and for them. A robust accountability process can provide someone they trust to go to when they’re too ashamed to admit their struggles to you. 

It’s worth noting again that if you discover your teen is sexting, you are not a bad parent. Understanding sexuality in the confusing world we live in today is no easy task. Your kid has a lot of voices telling them what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s totally normal and what’s lame; but ultimately, other than God himself, there is no better voice of reason and wisdom than you, the parent. So take heart: your child does want to hear from you, even if they don’t verbalize it. Take some deep breaths, pray about this sensitive issue, and talk about it.

(P.S. To help you address this topic even further, we'd love to offer our Parent's Guide to Sexting at no cost! Get your free Guide here.)

CHECK OUT THE ALL AXIS PASS!

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