Parents just don’t understand: Sexting, like sex, is just part of growing up.
So declares a new study that finds teen sexting doesn’t deserve the bad rap it’s getting on HBO’s button-pushing “Euphoria.” Sending nude pics can actually be “indicative of healthy exploration,” researchers find, and is increasingly becoming a rite of passage.
“[Adolescents’] exploration of their sexual identity is not only normal, but a developmental and biological imperative,” lead author Jeff R. Temple tells The Post.
“Sexting in Youth: Cause for Concern?,” published in the health journal the Lancet, analyzed 39 studies that tracked more than 110,000 teens. The research arrives at a time when sex educators, in addition to scientists, are rethinking how realistic an abstinence-only approach to sexuality is.
Some are even teaching teens how to sext more safely.
“One of the basic rules I always talk about is know your angles — and I don’t mean figure out which way you’re going to look best,” Florida-based sex educator Cassandra Corrado, 26, tells The Post. She encourages her students, mostly college freshmen, to cover up distinguishing marks, including tattoos, birthmarks and freckles in their photos, and to make sure the background is ambiguous.
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“Usually people’s minds are blown by the simplicity of not including your face,” Corrado says.
Awkward dialogue is crucial, according to sexperts.
“We have to have much bigger conversations than don’t send a naked picture,” Ohioan Lydia Bowers, 37, a sex educator working with parents and educators of teens aged 15 and younger, tells The Post.
Bowers sees her work as preemptive, encouraging younger adolescents and their families to think critically about sexting before there’s an issue. “Safe sexting includes being developmentally able to take precautions,” she says.
Those safe sexting precautions significantly involve being tech savvy and guarding your digital privacy. “Protect your device — use your password,” Corrado says.
“Cloud storage tends to be much more easily hacked into,” says Bowers. For this reason, she advises keeping sensitive photos in more private places than a phone’s photo roll.
Some educators tackle the topic with a more legal-driven approach.
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“I think kids should be told, ‘This is the law,’ ” says Karen Rayne, 40, founder of Texas-based sex education organization Unhushed, referring to child pornography laws. The mere idea of “safe sexting,” to her, is contradictory.
“I don’t think the words make sense when put together,” Rayne says. “There are legal implications.”
Minors are not immune from being prosecuted for child porn possession or reception, which is punishable under both state and federal law.
Temple’s research supports this, in that he found the repercussions of sexting decrease significantly with age. “We need to look at sexting like we look at sex, including in the criminal sense,” he says.
For parents who discover nudes on their children’s phones, Temple has some words of wisdom: Use it as an opportunity to have a conversation. He hopes people take from his research that sexting is “something we need to work into comprehensive sexual education.”
After all, Bowers says, it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon: “We can say it all we want: ‘Don’t sext’ — but kids are still going to do it.”
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