U.S. teens spend an average of more than seven hours per day on screen media for entertainment, and tweens spend nearly five hours, a 2019 report found. Beyond entertainment, we also shop, learn, and communicate through screens and the internet. With the amount of time we spend online, it can seem logical to assume that everything we do online is safe. Sexting—or sending nude photos or videos over text message or through apps—is more dangerous than it seems. We busted these five myths about sexting.

Myth: “Everyone is doing it.”

Apps and technology make it easy to communicate around the clock. As a teenager, you may feel like you don’t measure up if you aren’t snapping, posting, and sharing photos regularly, including nude photos. Consider this: A recent study showed that 30% of teens have sent at least one sext. That means 70% of teens have not. So if you don’t want to send sexts, don’t feel like you are the only one. In fact, you are in the large majority!

Myth: “No one else will ever know that I sent a photo or video.”

Just like anything on the internet, photos, videos, and texts you send are never truly private and never go away. You may be asking, “how can I make sure my pictures and videos stay private?”

The truth is—you can’t. You might think you’re only sharing things with certain people, but anyone can save and send pictures or texts to others (even with popular apps like Snapchat or OnlyFans). Once you send a text, photo, or video, you have no control over who can see your picture, and no way of getting it back. Even if you delete it from your phone, page, or profile, other people can save or copy the image and share it further.

Myth: “It’s just a picture… It can’t hurt anyone.”

When you like or trust someone enough to send them a sext, you might never imagine they would share your private messages. Unfortunately, you can’t predict when someone might break your trust.

Even if they don’t share a picture of you on purpose, it’s possible that a friend can take and look through their phone, or their phone could get lost, stolen, or hacked, allowing your pictures to be shared without your knowledge or consent. 

When privacy and trust are broken, mental health and self-perception can suffer.

Remember, it’s NEVER okay to share or post someone else’s private photos or texts, even if you’re in a fight or don’t like them. This is considered bullying and sexual harassment, and it can be very hurtful to the person you are targeting.

Myth: “Sexting isn’t as serious as sex.”

If you are sending sexts to, or receiving sexts from, a romantic partner, it means you have built trust with that person. You should treat those messages with privacy and respect. This means you shouldn’t save or share any photos without that persons consent.

Physical sexual activity involves more than sending a photo, but research shows that sexting and sex go hand in hand. One study showed that teens who sexted had a greater chance of being sexually active just one year later. 

Myth: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Before you send a sext, understand the consequences:

  • Suspension from school
  • Loss of employment
  • Humiliation
  • Risk of harassment, bullying, or threats (example: if the picture is shared with unintended recipients including classmates, parents, and those who distribute child sex abuse material)
  • Suspension from athletic teams, clubs and/or extracurricular activities
  • Risk of being identified as a sex offender for receiving or sending sexual material of a minor
Sarah is a community impact intern at Lotus. She is a junior at Murray State studying organizational communication and is passionate about working in the nonprofit sector one day.

 

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