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.

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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.

Promoting Your Student Ministry Events

megaphone-300x300One of the most important aspects of any event is promotion. Promotion will make or break your event. This is especially true in student ministry. You can plan the most epic event ever, but if you don’t promote it well it will fail. Effectively promoting your student ministry events will help make them more successful. I want to share a few tips for promoting your student ministry events to your students.

Use social media. When it comes to promoting events for your students always use social media. Students are already on social media so if you promote events on social media sites they will be sure to see it. Facebook events are a great resource for this kind of thing. Great way to invite students to events via Facebook and also a great way to quickly share the event so students can see it on their timelines. Twitter and Instgram are also great places to promote your student ministries events. I usually tweet about an event every few days leading up to it. I also have been using apps like Over to create Instagram pictures to promote our events on Instagram.

Send out a mass text. If you don’t have a tool for sending mass text messages out to your students than get one asap! I use Group Text! for iPhone to send out mass text messages to our students. Whatever tool you decide to use, make sure and promote your events via text messages. Send out a mass text a few days before an event to remind students about it.

Create postcard sized handouts. For every event we create a postcard sized handout that has a well-designed graphic for the event and all the details students need to know about it. We usually start passing these out a few weeks in advance at our mid-week gatherings, church services on Sunday, and whenever we are out and see students. Also, this is a great way to get students to promote events themselves. Give each student a stack of postcards and let them go pass them out at school or in their community.

Have a creative announcement time during your mid-week or weekend gatherings. Don’t overlook the importance of promoting upcoming events on a weekly basis as part of your mid-week or weekend gatherings. However, be creative in how you promote events during the “boring” announcement time. Don’t just get on stage and tell them what’s coming up. Do a video or something crazy to get there attention and make the event stick.

These are just a few ways we promote events that will work well for your ministry as well. Remember, promotion is one of the most important parts of making an event go well so put energy into promoting it effectively.

Teen Sexting Infograph

Last week I ran across a very eye opening infograph about sexting on Youth Ministry Media’s blog. I want to share that infograph here on my blog to help inform parents and other youth workers about the popularity of sexting among our teenagers. Sexting is basically using standard text messaging to have sexual conversations as well as sending semi-nude or nude pictures to someone. With popular apps like Snapchat sexting is becoming more popular and easy for our teenagers to engage in. Here are some major things that stand out to me about the infograph on sexting below:

86% of sexters never get caught. Many parents and youth workers may say sexting isn’t a problem with their teens, but if this stat is true than they probably do and you just don’t know about it! Teens that sext usually don’t get caught.

53% of teens that sext are girls. This one blew my mind. Everyone thinks it’s the teen guys who struggle with lust and porn so it would only make sense they are the ones enaging in sexting the most. But it’s the girls who are leading the way in sexting! We must not target only the guys when it comes to this issue. Teen girls are just as, or even more, engaged in it than teen guys.

Teen Sexting Infograph

So what should parents and youth workers do with this information? First, don’t assume your teens are not sexting. Don’t wait until they get caught to have the tough conversations with them. Talk to them about why sexting is wrong and the devastating consequences that can come from engaging in it. Second, protect your teens. Don’t give them a smart phone (or regular phone for that matter) and let them have free reign. Set up boundaries and rules to help protect them from things like sexting. They may not like it at the moment, but as they grow up and walk with Jesus they will be grateful.