In the past, we adults sought to curve the sexual appetite of youth by telling them “Just say no,” but the results never quite worked out that way. Research has repeatedly shown that such educational messages fall short on deaf ears.

Simply telling youth not to have sex fails to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and University of Wisconsin-EAU, have published a paper in the Journal of Adolescent Health, stating, “It is time to teach youth safe sexting.”

The truth is, kids have always experimented with their sexuality, and with the popularization of cellphones, and users becoming younger and younger – picture and video-sharing apps are right at their fingertips. Unfortunately, the message of sexting abstinence doesn’t seem to be reducing the prevalence of adolescents sharing nudes.

Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at FAU, and Justin Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at UW-EAU, are co-authors of the paper. Both acknowledge that although participating in sexting is never 100% safe (just like engaging in sex), empowering youth with strategies to reduce the possible consequences of engagement are essential.

When conveying this message of responsible use of cellphones and sexting, you’ll want to teach kids that it opens them up to significant and long-term consequences, such as humiliation, extortion, victimization, school sanction, reputational damage, and even criminal charges.

Rules of Engagement:

If someone sends you a sext, do not send it on or show it to anyone else. In the court of law, this is a crime and will be viewed as nonconsensual sharing of child pornography. Likewise, if you send it, make sure you know and fully trust the receiver. “Catfishing” is real and a growing trend; if you don’t know them in real life – don’t send it.

If you’re not sure the person on the receiving end would like it – avoid it. You should have textual consent beforehand, because sending unsolicited explicit images to others could also lead to criminal charges.

You might consider boudoir pictures instead; it’s a genre of photography that involves suggestion rather than explicitness. Instead of being fully nude, a person strategically covers the very private parts of themselves.

The most important aspect is to exclude your face from being seen. In addition, do not include tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or other features that could connect them to you. Remove jewelry and consider your surroundings; all these things pinpoint straight back to you – so, remember to turn your device location services off for any app that you use.

Remember that these items are not intended to encourage your child to partake in sexual activity, but to give them the knowledge to make smart, conscious choices. This opens the door for a conversation that should be had; it even allows your child to know that if they are being pressured or threatened to send nudes, that they can come to their parent – knowing that they have their back.

Encourage your child to take screenshots of any malicious activity against them. Lastly, do not store explicit images or videos on a device. As technology advances, so do the hackers that break in.

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