Teaching teens about self-acceptance can curb their need to sext. Learn how you can help them.
There's a recent study which shows that teens who "sext" (in this case, sending nude photos) are 32% more likely to report having engaged in sexual intercourse one year later than those who said they did not sext. An immediate reaction could be that this study should alarm us of a new trend with our youth and the technology they live with. Actually, if we take a moment to look at why teens are sexting and what this means for their decision making, it can be a red flag to take corrective measures before the actual sex begins.
People only do what works for them in some way, teens included. This tells us that a need is being met by what they are doing, but what need is being met? There is an innate need for community and acceptance within all of us. This is why we develop societies and connect with each other. This innate desire is healthy for us because it helps us lean on each other and benefit from each other's strengths. Together, we can accomplish what we would never be able to accomplish alone.
However, what happens to someone when they are isolated for too long? They start to second guess their own versions of reality, and feelings of depression, anxiety and fear grow; too much isolation is unhealthy for us. So, we need each other; this is normal. It's also normal to want acceptance from the society of peers around us. The question is, how can we help our kids find acceptance in healthy ways? Working from here, we can understand why teens sext and try to deal with the issue at hand, instead of panicking over a new-fangled way kids are getting their innate needs met.
The problem is that a teen who is sexting feels the need for acceptance. So, how do we help them feel accepted by their peers without sexting or having actual sex in the future? Self-esteem and self-love is the answer, by holding themselves to a respectable standard. If a teen respects themselves, they will not have to lower their standards to achieve acceptance. Ultimately, true acceptance from others comes from accepting themselves as they are.
If someone acts foolish in a confident and non-apoligetic way it's viewed as "cool." But, if someone acts embarrassed by a normal mistake it's viewed as "un-cool." It's all about confidence in yourself. Kids can smell insecurity a mile away and if they sense weakness, they pounce to make themselves feel better. They're actually feeling insecure themselves, they may just hide it better. Teens especially feel the need to boost their ego to feel better about themselves.
Our teens do not need to be the food that other people's egos are in search of. They need to raise their self-esteem by doing esteemable acts—volunteer, join a group, play a sport, play an instrument, take art classes, start a volunteer project to benefit a cause they believe in. Teens should do anything they enjoy and can take pride in. Get them focused on things that make them feel better about themselves. It's amazing how self-esteem rises when we do esteemable acts. Guide them, and while you're showing them how to raise their self-esteem, join in and raise yours too.
There wasn't all this technology around when we were kids, but if we use it to our advantage it can be tremendously helpful. Appreciate that the sexting can be a warning sign that your child needs to work on their self-esteem, and help them do just that. Appreciate that there are articles like this one just a click away that can help us deal with these types of specific issues. Remember: technology doesn't hurt people; people hurt people. So, let's do what we can to empower ourselves and our children to be the best, most esteemable versions of themselves as possible. And. if technology can help us move in that direction, great!