Parents must watch out if their teenage children are sending sexually charged messages or images via cell phones, as this trend is detrimental to their well-being, a Binghamton University expert has warned.
Mary Muscari, an Associate Professor in the Decker School of Nursing, says that sexting can result in young lives being lost to suicide or shattered by the collateral consequences of felony convictions.
A survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Cosmogirl.com has revealed that 20 per cent of teens-22 per cent of girls and 18 per cent of boys-electronically send or post online nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves.
Mary points out that teens often cannot see the long-term consequences of their behaviour: sexting may not only invite legal troubles but cause chaos also, if obscene pictures leaked in cyberspace are recognized by other people.
She says that guilt and shame can result in emotional issues like depression and suicidal ideation, and colleges may forfeit scholarships or refuse admission.
She further warns that sex offenders may use the photos to blackmail the sender into victimization.
Mary suggests that parents monitor their children in cyberspace, just as they would anywhere else.
According to her, the easiest way to do so is to keep tech toys out of their bedroom, keep the computer in an area where it can be monitored, and have the kids turn in their cell phones and other hand-held devices before bedtime to prevent nightly text-fests and potential sexting.
She also recommends that parents talk to their children about relationships, and the importance of their reputation because it is a good time to test out the values that they instil in kids.