This article looks at sexting - texting or posting sexually explicit messages or photos, and the consequences that can have in a teen's life. A sexting scenario, questions you can use to discuss this issue with your mentee (including real life examples), and facts about sexting are included.
Sex and Relationships
Young people spend a lot of time thinking about relationships. Half of all teenagers have dated, and over one third have been in a serious relationship. Many adolescents would say that they spend more time with their boyfriend or girlfriend than with other friends and family.1 Clearly, these relationships are important. Adolescent relationships can both shape a mentee’s views on romance and sexuality and have long-lasting effects on his or her self-esteem.
A healthy relationship is one marked by mutual respect, trust, and open communication. These positive relationships can help a young person develop important interpersonal skills and can provide an additional source of emotional support.1 However, not all relationships are healthy; unfortunately, many involve mean, disrespectful, controlling or abusive behavior.2 A young person in an unhealthy relationship may withdraw from other friends, text or call excessively, show a sudden change in his or her interests, or put up with regular, demeaning teasing by his or her girlfriend or boyfriend.4 Unhealthy romantic relationships can increase the risk of abuse.1
Teens face a higher risk for dating violence because of their inexperience and unfamiliarity with how to seek legal remedies. They may have a hard time realizing that a boyfriend or girlfriend is abusive, or they may fear going against peer pressure and adult disapproval.3 In a national survey, one-fifth of adolescents reported dating abuse.5 It is estimated that one in three adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a boyfriend, and 57% of teens know someone who has been abusive in a dating relationship.3
Teens in unhealthy relationships often face pressure to do things they do not want to do, including sex. Teenagers who are dating exclusively are already more likely to have sex earlier in life, meaning that they are less likely to use contraception and more likely to deal with an unexpected pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease (STD).4 This is a very real issue — the probability that a teen has had sex increases from 32% in 9th grade to 62% in 12th grade.4 Yet according to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of teenagers (55% of boys and 72% of girls) who have had sex wish that they had waited.8
You can encourage your mentee to make good, informed decisions about relationships and sexuality. By discussing relationships, you can help your mentee to recognize the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships. The following resources can help:
1. “Adolescent Romantic Relationships”
2. “Am I in an Unhealthy Relationship?”
3. Teen Dating Violence and Unhealthy Relationships
4. “Healthy Relationships”
5. “Dating Violence Among Adolescents”
6. "Why Relationships and Family Are Important"
7. "Your Sexual Health"
8. "Teen Attitudes Toward Sex" (poll)