Selfie Safety: What to Tell Your Teens Before They Snap Another Picture

Selfies. They’re everywhere. Teens love taking pictures to share moments in their lives, and their social media feeds are filled with them.

Sending revealing selfies (sometimes called sexting) has become a growing trend among teens. Sexting is the sharing of sexual messages and/or semi-nude, or nude, pictures online or through text.

Parents should talk with their teen about the risks of selfies. Starting the conversation early can help your teen feel comfortable discussing issues they might have and empower them to say no to sending things they’re not comfortable with. Here are some things your teen should think about before snapping that next selfie.

IT’S NOT PRIVATE: Teens may think their pictures are private or temporary because of apps like Snapchat. Snapchat allows you to send pictures and, after a few seconds, the picture disappears, creating a false sense of security. Teens need to realize nothing on the internet is temporary. Nothing.

IT CAN AFFECT YOUR FUTURE: Revealing selfies can have lasting effects on not only a teen’s reputation but also college and job opportunities. Employers and colleges look online for information about candidates. A picture taken years ago can impact their decision. As an example, 10 incoming freshmen at Harvard were recently revoked admission because of inappropriate content they shared online.

YOU COULD GET IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW: Even more serious, revealing photos can lead to legal trouble. Many states now have laws specifically targeting sexting. States that do not have sexting laws may have child pornography charges if the photos are of someone under 18.

DON’T SEND ANYTHING YOU WOULDN’T WANT YOUR GRANDMA TO SEE: A good rule of thumb for teens is to never send anything you wouldn’t be comfortable with your grandma, mom, dad, teacher, or any adult seeing. Due to the ease of sending selfies, many teens don’t give their pictures much thought before sending. What seems like a fun and harmless photo can have lasting effects for the sender when seen by the wrong people.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO HIT SEND: Many teens aren’t participating in sexting because they want to. When teens were asked why they send revealing messages, peer pressure was the number one answer, according to Psychology Today. It is important to tell teens they don’t have to send any picture they’re uncomfortable with. And if they receive a picture that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell a parent immediately.

To learn more about smart phone safety and how to help your kids navigate a digital world, click here.

Emily Decker, MD
Dr. Emily is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Urgent Care and Primary Care Clinics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has a strong interest in child advocacy, and serves as the medical director for CAP4Kids Columbus, a website that connects families with resources and opportunities in Columbus. Her energetic toddler twin girls keep her busy in her personal life, and her interests include traveling throughout Africa and Asia. She is an avid U.S. soccer fan as well and has been to the last four World Cups. Follow Dr. Emily on Twitter @CAP4Kids for local resources and opportunities for kids.

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