HART: So your teenager is sexting? Relax, it is very normal

By: CHRIS HART

As we get older, we quickly forget what it was like to be young, don’t we? Like do you remember your teenage crushes? As a parent you hope your teenage daughters haven’t got there yet. But I promise you they have! All the way through from age 12 or 13. And the ones with boyfriends, or boys who’re interested in them, are sending sexy selfies and texts.

Because when you were growing up, you probably passed each other notes in class. Nowadays there’s sexting! Today’s teens send each other sexually explicit messages and nude pictures and think that’s a completely natural thing to do.

Because, you know what? Today’s teenage girls actually like the idea of sex. Fortunately, access to the Internet is actually encouraging teenagers to start having sex later. But meanwhile they’re thinking and imagining what it will be like. As parents, we don’t like that idea – but that’s because we’ve forgotten just how interested we were at the same age!

‘MAKES THEM FEEL DESIRABLE’

And for modern teens, the world’s online. So sexting is rapidly becoming one of the ways they flirt. And the girls are enjoying it. They say it makes them feel desirable, and adds to the fun of growing close to a boy.

In any case they’re not put off by parents, teachers, or campaigners trying to stop them. They say we don’t know what we’re talking about. That they want to feel sexy. And that we exaggerate the downsides. But downsides there certainly are.

Like sending sexts to the wrong number. Becoming a victim of revenge porn or mass texting. It’s also very common for sexts to get shared around, including with complete strangers. And once one’s out there in cyberspace, you can’t control it any more. So, as a parent, I don’t like to think of my daughter sexting.

But in fact, so long as no-one’s being pressurised, and everyone’s aware that the images might be seen by other people, researchers say that sexting doesn’t appear to be doing any harm.

So maybe we need to stop panicking and trust our kids. Naturally, you should talk to your teens about their relationships. About treating each other well and being safe. But actually this sort of behaviour is completely natural. It’s just the modern version of what you and I did behind the school yard.

But there is one other issue. Young people don’t see anything wrong in sending each other sexual images. But in many countries – including here – sexting’s actually illegal.

In fact, in most places the law treats sexting as a form of child pornography and exploitation. So while intending to protect them, the law’s inadvertently ended up threatening your teens with steep punishments, including jail time and sex offender registration for doing something teenagers see as completely normal.

Many lawyers agree. Support them. The law needs to be brought into line with modern youngster’s sexual behaviour. Leaving sexting problems to be sorted out by parents and social workers.