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Is sexting ever OK when you’re a teen?

When you have romantic feelings toward someone, you may want to express how you feel. Some people do this by “sexting.” But is it ever a good idea if you’re a teen?

What is sexting?

Sexting is sharing a sexual message or photo through a phone, email account or social media site. While sexting can seem like no big deal because it doesn’t carry the risk of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it can still have some pretty serious consequences.

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Sexting consequences

Sexting can negatively affect your mental health, relationships and future. It can even have legal consequences.

Before sending an explicit photo, remember that once an image is out there, you can’t get it back. What if you and the other person break up? What if they share your message or photo with their friends or social media networks? What if your parents or teachers found out? In some cases, the image could even end up in the hands of a sexual predator.

Here are some tips to avoid serious consequences from sexting:

  • Never take photos of yourself you wouldn’t want everyone to see, including your family, classmates and teachers.
  • Never forward someone else’s sex-related photos or messages. You could get in serious trouble, especially if a person involved is under age 18.

Sexting can affect your mental health and relationships

Sexting can have potential emotional consequences like:

  • Regret
  • Objectification/victimization
  • Bullying
  • Depression
  • Sadness
  • Social isolation
  • Loss of friendships
  • Loss of respect for yourself
  • Thinking about or actually hurting yourself or others

Sexting can negatively impact your future

Sexting can also negatively affect your future, such as your:

  • Employment
  • College admission
  • Military admission
  • Spot on a sports team
  • Scholarships
  • Future relationships
  • Mental health if you have to re-live the consequences of your decision

Employers and colleges often look at candidates’ social media profiles and online presence. Having nude images or photos of alcohol or drug use could hinder your ability to get a job or into college one day.

Legal consequences of sexting

If a person involved in sexting is under age 18, it’s considered child pornography. The legal consequences can vary depending on the state where you live. Some states consider it a felony to both send and receive the photo (even if you didn’t ask the person to send the photo). If the person in the image is under 18, you may face legal consequences if you’re the:

  • Photo taker
  • Person in the picture
  • Sender
  • Receiver
  • In possession of the photo

Sexting could also put you at risk for placement on the Sex Offender Registry and possible jail time. Usually, the consequences are harshest for those who request or share the photo.

And even if you’re not breaking the law, your school can punish you and others involved, even if you’re legal adults.

What to do if someone pressures you to sext

If someone asks you to send a nude photo or explicit message, you may be afraid to turn them down because you don’t want them to stop liking you. But if someone truly cares about you, they won’t ask you to do something that puts your mental health and future at risk.

If someone sends you an unwanted message or pressures you to sext, tell a trusted adult. That’s sexual harassment and it’s not OK.

Need more info? Ask an Expert.

AMAZE.org: Sexting: What Should You Do?

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