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Be wary of your teen’s sexting habits

The current crop of teenagers are more tech savvy than ever before. They will not survive without smart phones, tablets and other fancy gadgets that are all useful tools for the modern world.

It is our duty to provide them with such tools to enhance their competitiveness. But we must be acutely aware that such tools can also be used in ways that are detrimental to our teens’ health.

Enter the world of sexting. Sexting is the practice of sending sexually explicit messages and/or pictures to friends or social media contacts. The web is full of sexual content, freely downloadable and easy to pass on. Self-taken sexual poses, sometimes just meant for a selected few, quickly become viral via teens’ circles. And therein lies the danger, new research shows that sexting is linked to increased sexual activity and behavior in young teens.

Scientific data shows that teens who engage in any type of sexting are 4 to 7 times more likely to engage in sexual behaviors compared to those who do not engage in sexting. Such behavior includes both vaginal and oral sex. And it’s worse for those who send explicit photos, with or without an accompanying sexual message.

Why should you be worried? Sexual health should be of greatest concern in our teenage population. They inadvertently get exposed to risks of unwanted pregnancy and subsequent unsafe abortions. The risks of sexual infections including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV are way too high. All these translate into longer term reproductive health implications. They may end up with chronic ill health and infertility in the future. Dropping out of school becomes a real risk, with disruption of socially desirable upbringing.

There’s much you can do as a parent to guard your teen against the dangers of sexting. Denying them modern gadgets is out of question. Guide them on proper usage of smart phones from an early start. Create a free atmosphere where anything gets discussed, especially matters of sex. Find a way of monitoring what’s going on in your teens’ phones and emails without necessarily being snoopy. An open discussion on avoidance of risky behavior will leave you and your teen safer than sorry.

Those who routinely interact with teens have a role to play as well. Asking teens about sending or receiving sexual messages might open a conversation, and provide an educational opportunity. Educating young people about possible consequences of sexting, strategies for maintaining healthy relationships, and the relationship of sexting to other risk behaviors may reduce adolescent sexual health risks.

Go ahead and support your teen with all the gadgets they need to be modernist. But be wary of the other extreme of unhealthy usage of such gadgets.Your teen still needs lots of guidance to negotiate the murky world of interconnectivity.

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