You're sitting in the Publix parking lot at dusk and notice the unsupervised 12-year-old riveted to his iPhone with his wide-eyed friend looking on.
Walking through the mall you see three teen girls seemingly oblivious to surroundings as they stroll together each focused on their phones.
Munching their curly fries at Arby's, each one of five youths are simultaneously engaged with their phones.
Stopping at the intersection you glance over and observe a pre-teen in the back seat basking in the glow of her phone.
Mobile phones and teens are everywhere. The question is: "What are they looking at?" And as a parent are you aware what they're seeing?
"Vamping" refers to teenagers staying up after hours, engaging socially and possibly sharing sexually related items. "Sexting" refers to transmitting provocative sexual images of one's self to others.
If your son or daughter has access to an iPhone—or any kind of smartphone for that matter—are you absolutely sure there's no questionable activity going on? More importantly, do you know how to protect your children from the onslaught they face in today's technological revolution?
In recent days, the Atlantic Monthly magazine, Washington Post newspaper, NBC News, PBS NewsHour and other news outlets are recognizing the rising tide of sexting among youth in our culture. We ignore these warnings to our peril. Let's survey the situation so we are both informed and prepared as parents.
Here are 7 realities regarding sexting:
1. Our culture encourages sharing information and images freely, including those of a sexual nature.
Nude—or nearly nude—pictures and themes are commonplace in ads, Instagram or on YouTube. Miley Cyrus, Nikki Minaj, Beyoncé, Rihanna and other "strippers" masquerade as dancers. Hot groups like "Nude Beach" fan the flames while Maybelline runs full-page ads heralding "Dare to Go Nude!" Shamefully explicit Victoria's Secret displays hit us on every side—television, posters and provocative magazine layouts.
The message is clear: Throw off restraints, don't hold back, show and enjoy what you got!
2. Exchanging naked pictures on iPhones or in other places is not viewed as unusual. We're being told it's "normal" and is "happening all the time."
In a recent Washington Post article on this topic by psychologist professor Elizabeth Englander, the "expert" calls us to stop demonizing teen sexting. She says in most cases it's "harmless" and a "normal part of a teen's sexual development."
3. Research studies reveal that 40 percent of teenagers have posted or sent sexually provocative messages. Over 10 percent of 13- to 16-year-old teen girls admit sending or receiving sexually explicit messages.
4. Seventy percent of young people acknowledge their sexting is with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
5. Fifty-five percent admit that, no matter what they say to others, they share content with more than one person. The average guy has little chance of discreetly deleting that "juicy" picture with such bragging rights available the next time he's with his buds!
6. Thirty-three percent do it to "feel attractive/sexy." Girls send more sexual images then guys.
7. Twelve percent do it because they are pressured or manipulated to do so.
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