What Parents Need to Know About Their Teen and Sexting

teen-using-cell-phoneOne of the popular trends among teenagers today that parents need to be aware of is sexting. In this post I want to share a few thoughts on sexting that I believe will both inform and help parents have conversations with their teen about sexting.

What is sexting? The first thing we need to do is establish what sexting is. Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages, photos, or videos via text messaging or some other form of social media messaging. In the past the idea of sexting has been referred to as phone sex or cybersex. Research from Pew Research found that last year 78% of teenagers had their own cell phone. They also found that half of them not only had a cell phone, but had a smartphone. We can assume the percent of teens with cell phones has risen above 78% since last year and with the popularity of smartphones more teens are not just getting a cell phone but a smartphone. The majority of sexting happens via text messaging. However, sexting, as we see in the definition above, can be done also through social media networks. So sexting can happen via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram since these networks all have private messaging features. Other apps like Snapchat are extremely popular for sexting.

Why is sexting popular with teens? There are a few reasons why I think sexting is popular with teens that I think are important for parents to know about. First, sexting seems to be popular with teens because “everyone is doing it.” Many teens who may not feel comfortable sexting will eventually do it because their friends are. Which leads to the second reason I think sexting popular with teens, which is peer pressure. Teens feel pressured to sext because “everyone is doing it” or maybe their boyfriend or girlfriend is pressuring them into it. For example, one girl said she was pressured into sexting when she was only 12 years old by the boy she was “going out with.” Usually it’s the guy that pressures the girl into sexting. One article says that 51% of girls said they felt pressured by guys to sext while only 18% of guys said they felt pressured from a girl. The third reason sexting seems to be popular with teens is the false sense of safety that comes with. Many teens that will not engage sexual activity in person will sext because they feel “safe” or “comfortable” behind the screen on their phone. Also, the app Snapchat has a feature that allows you to set a time limit on how long someone can view your picture. However, all this is a false sense of safety and comfort. An article I already linked to mentions two great points on this – photos and videos sent privately can be easily shared publicly and once digital images or videos are out there they leave a digital footprint cannot be “taken back.” When a teen sends a semi-nude or fully nude photo to someone within a private message the person that receives that message can easily save the image to their phone and share it however they want. Even though apps like Snapchat give the user the ability to set a time limit, the person receiving the picture can easily take a screenshot before the time limit expires. There are many more reasons why sexting is popular with teens, but these are a few important ones for parents to know about.

Why is sexting is a bad idea? For starters, sexting is a bad idea because it can lead to teens being publicly humiliated if their private photo or video goes public. Not only that, but in many states sexting is actually illegal and is considered a major crime (click here to sexting-related laws based on your state). What I am about to say next may not sit well with you if you do not believe in the Bible and view it as God’s standard of absolute truth. However, since I am a Christian and believe in the Bible I want to point out what God has revealed about sexual activity, which is what sexting is. 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, and Ephesians 5:3 tells us to flee, abstain, and to not even have a hint of sexual immorality. What does sexually immorality mean? Sexual immorality, when used in the Bible (Greek word – porneia), refers to any form of sexual activity outside of the context of marriage between one man and one woman. God’s design is for a man and a woman to enjoy sexual activity within the context of their marriage. Any form of sexual activity outside of that, like sexting, is considered sin and is wrong.

What can parents do about their teen and sexting? The best thing parents can do is to have an open conversation with their teen about sexting. Talk to them about the pressures and dangers that come with sexting. Talk to them about how they should use text messaging and social media. Also, do some research and learn about the sexting trend among teens so you be informed and be intentional about helping your teen in this area. Lastly, don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your teen when it comes to their phone. Keep an eye on their social media accounts (get their username and password so you can check them from time to time) and other things they may be doing on their phone.

There is much more we could say on this topic, but this should inform you as a parent and help you understand your teen and sexting.

Advertisements

Sobrr – What Parents Need to Know

Sobrr-Life-in-the-moment-598x326Parents need to know what apps their teens are using on their smartphones. One of the apps that I have been telling parents about is Snapchat. Snapchat is one of the most popular apps out there right now for teens and parents need to know how it works and what some of the dangers are with it (click here to read about Snapchat). By the way, the whole idea behind Snapchat is not good. If you don’t believe me, click here and read this helpful article.

But that’s enough about Snapchat. There is a new app that just came out called Sobrr, which may gain popularity with teens shortly. It’s an interesting app that to teenagers will sound fun and exciting, but in the long run is not very healthy.

Sobrr is an app that is built on the whole idea of “living in the moment.” Sobrr basically does three major things. First, Sobrr users “vibe in the moment.” Vibes are basically things you and others post (what they call “moments”). Then you scroll through the current vibes to see what others are posting and can either “cheer” (same idea as a “like” on Facebook) or “pass.” The catch though is everything expires in 24 hours. So what you post and what others are posting will be gone in 24 hours. Completely gone. Second, Sobrr users can have “24 hour friendships.” Yep, you read it right, temporary friendships that last for 24 hours. However, if both people enjoyed their “24 hour friendship” they can choose to stay friends, but only if they both choose to do so. Third, Sobrr users can have “ephermal conversations.” Sobrr chatting is a one-time chat experience. You must read it before it expires. What’s the point of this? Sobrr says it “keeps the conversations free and in the moment.” You can click here to check out the Sobrr website and read more about it as well as watch a short video about it.

Why do parents need to be aware of Sobrr? It seems fun and not harmful. However, when you really step back and think about what this app is all about it’s not really that healthy for teenagers. A few things stand out to me about this app parents need to think about. First, Sobrr (much like Snaptchat) opens the door for teens to get involved in sexting. Sexting has gained a lot of popularity among teens because of apps like Snapchat (and of course because of texting) and Sobrr will do the same thing in making sexting easier and more accessible for teens. Because of the one-time chat feature and the fact things you say will expire, teens will be more likely to say things they wouldn’t in person or even in a normal online chatting session. Second, Sobrr cheapens real community. We are designed to be in relationships with other people. Community is necessary for us in how we have been designed. Sobrr redefines what friendships look like by making them just a 24 hour experience. Third, Sobrr will give teens a false sense of no accountability. In their minds, things they say and do on Sobrr will disappear in 24 hours so why would they think about using discernment or even hold back in what they do. However, parents, especially Christian parents, should realize this is not true. Even though what they do may disappear in 24 hours they will still give an account for it before God one day. In Romans 14:12, Paul reminds us, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (ESV).

Parents, check out Sobrr. Don’t just take my word for it. Research the app yourself and talk to your teen about it if it comes up. Don’t just let your teen use apps like Sobrr without knowing about it first or having a conversation with them. You may even decide to not let them use this app at all.

What “Hot or Not” is Teaching Teens

Hot-or-Not-575x340One of the most popular trending apps right now is an app called “Hot or Not.” Even though this app attracts many young adults, teenagers are very much into it as well and are using it. Basically, it’s an app where you browse pictures other users have posted and you rate them as “hot” or “not.” The rating scale is 1-10 with low rating obviously meaning your “not” and high ratings meaning your “hot.” The photos can range from appropriate to sexual explicit. If you rate someone as “hot” and they rate you as “hot” as well, then you become connections and can chat (which is where this app opens up a huge window for sexting). That’s basically all the app is. So it seems harmless right? Seems like it’s a fun app teenagers can use to find people they think are attractive and maybe chat with them. Parents, click here to read a really good parent review of this app.

I’d like to suggest that this app is teaching teenagers, especially teen girls, that their value is found in their outward appearance and the approval for others. If you have a teenager, again especially a girl, or work with teenagers, you know how much of a struggle this is. Even though this is a tough issue for girls, the guys are not excluded from this as well. Teenagers want to be liked by their peers. Teenagers, in many different ways, are crying out for the approval of others. So many teenagers will run to this app, find the best pictures of themselves, post them, and wait in hopes that someone will make them feel valuable by rating them as “hot.” However, this comes at a cost and a risk. The risk is not everyone will think they are “hot” and that approval they long for may instead by shouts of disproval by people rating them as “not.” And maybe if they wear less clothes and show more skin they can get their ratings up? Do you see how this app can be devastating to teenagers?

It’s most devastating because it goes right against the Gospel. While teenagers are fighting for acceptance, approval, and value their Creator is shouting to them that He has the eternal acceptance and value they are looking for! He sent Jesus to die on a cross, to pay for their sins, so they can find eternal value and acceptance in a relationship with Him. They don’t need to look for approval and value in their outwards looks, even though there is nothing sinful with outward beauty, and the approval of others. The Gospel is what they need and when they take that step of believing in that Gospel and entering into a personal relationship with their Creator they can find all the acceptance, approval, and value they need in Him!

I think it’s important for parents of teens and those who work with teens to understand the devastating message this app could be sending. As parents, you may want to discourage your teens from even using this app or at least having honest conversations with them about the message it may be sending them. It may be that this could be a great platform to explain and teach the Gospel to your teenager.

The bottom line is that what teenagers want, what all of us want, is found in the Gospel. The Gospel is the answer and our only hope.

Social Media Slang Parents Need to Know About

Teen-with-Cell-phoneIf you are a parent and have teenagers you know that texting and social media are the main ways teenagers communicate these days. What you may not know is what those weird acronyms your teen uses actually means. Youth Leader Stash has provided a few acronyms that I believe you need to know about.

NOOB – Newbie
FRAPE – Hacking someone’s social profile without permission
LMIRL – Let’s meet in real life
ASL – Age, Sex, Location
GNOC – Get naked on camera
FWB – Friends with benefits
PAW – Parents are watching
PIR – Parent in room
POS – Parent over shoulder
TDTM – Talk dirty to me
STR – Send to receive pictures
143 – I love you
CD9 – Code 9 My parents are around
FTF – Face to face
FYEO – For your eyes only

Most of the acronyms above have sexual meanings and motive behind them. Sexting, sending sexual explicit messages and pictures via text and social media, is huge in teen culture. Also, many of the acronyms above show that teens have ways to make sure you don’t catch a glimpse of something they may be sending or posting. Click here to see a complete list of acronyms your teens may be using.

6 Things to Remember When Teaching Students About Sex

word-sexOne topic I think we should continually address in student ministry is sex. Sex is an amazing gift that the enemy has taken and used for evil. Our students live in a culture that is saturated with sex and the pressure to engage in sex before marriage is huge. Our culture sees sex as a recreational activity and our students are buying into that lie. Our students need to understand what sex is and how God has design sex to take place between a man and a woman.

Both our middle and high school ministries did a series on sex and relationships this past month. It was a great series and I believe we communicated God’s truth about sex and relationships well. I hope every student pastor does at least one series a year on the topic of sex. It’s extremely important and our students need it. Here are a few things I believe are important to remember when teaching students about sex.

1. Be bold. Talking to students about sex can be awkward. It’s not only awkward for you, but at times it’s awkward for the students (especially if your teaching middle school students). Break through the awkwardness by being bold. Don’t be afraid to use the word “sex” or other words that come up in a conversation about it. Students have heard all the terms about sex and associated words, you’re not going to say anything they probably have not heard.

2. Keep the Gospel central. When teaching students about sex make sure the Gospel is clear. There are a few reasons this is extremely important. First, you don’t want to teach students that just being a moral person in regards to sex is ok. Many students believe that staying a virgin until marriage is the ultimate Christian teens goal. So instead of striving after Jesus they strive to reach the standard of being a virgin. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the goal is not just to be a virgin. A student can still be a technical virgin, but still commit sexual immorality according to the Bible (more on that in a minute). Second, many students in your group will have already lost their virginity or have messed up sexually in some other way. These students need to hear the Gospel! They need to hear Jesus still loves them and He wants to forgive them. They may feel dirty, used, and broken, but God restores and wants to redeem their failure. One last thing, please be careful with the “dirty rose” illustration. Watch this video for more on that from Matt Chandler.

3. Define sex Biblically. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people define sex as just intercourse. According to Scripture sex is more than just intercourse. In Ephesians 5:3 the Greek word for sexual immorality is pornea, which covers all sexual activity outside of marriage. This includes heavy making out, oral sex, friends with benefits, and masturbation. Those are things that most students don’t consider sex. So if they do all of those things, but stay a virgin they think they are fine, but that’s a lie! God says sex is any form of sexual activity outside of marriage. Define sex Biblically when teaching students about it.

4. Have a time for genders to be both together and separate. Don’t be afraid to teach about sex in a mixed group. In fact, it may be a healthy thing to address sex with a mixed group of students. However, it’s also good to have a time where guys get with guys and girls get with girls to talk in more detail about sex. Have a balance and try and do both.

5. Address current trends. Make sure you relate the topic of sex to current trends in students culture. Help students see what God says about sex relates to how they use their bodies, social media, and other things. Hit things like sexting and Snapchat. Talk about how sex relates to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Take the truth of Scripture and help students apply it to their current culture.

6. Lastly, equip the parents. As good as it is for us to talk about sex with our students, the parents talking about it to them is more important. Encourage parents to have conversations with their student about sex. Help them do this by giving them whatever resources you can. Tap into things like CPYU and Focus on the Family for great resources on this topic. One of the things we did was offer a parent seminar for our parents about technology and how it’s being used by our students (click here to listen to the audio of that seminar).

Again, teaching students about sex is important. I hope these simple reminders will help you next time you address this issue with your students. If you have more additional thoughts, feel free to leave them in a comment below.