It’s Just A Picture: Everyone nowadays increasingly carries smartphones, tablets, social media, apps, and text messaging. As a result, the risks of possibly sending or receiving sexually explicit content has become a serious concern. Some people think sexting (or sending “nudie” pictures) is harmless. “It is ‘just’ a sexual picture or video sent to someone who cares about me.” People feel more comfortable because they perceive it to be safer than actual sex. Sexting may be done as a joke, a way of getting attention, or as flirting. Those who are in relationships may feel pressured to send a sexy photo. Research conducted at an Adventist University found that in the last year, about 1 in 4 students sent a sexually explicit picture of themselves to someone, and 1 in every 3 of these individuals reported that they did this more than ten times.
The Downside: As you know, once you send that picture you no longer own it. Even with Snapchat, screenshots can still be taken and saved. Even if you do not get a notification that someone screenshotted, a friend could take a picture from their phone. You may think a photo is deleted, but it can always be found again through social media. The person you are sending it to may say it will be protected, but you aren’t guaranteed they won’t show it to others, especially if you break up. They could use whatever media to threaten or harass you.
Even if the picture is never shared, it can mean problems for the relationship. Research has found that teens who sext are more likely to have sex, experience abuse in the relationship, and be a victim of cyberbullying. You should never feel coerced into sending pictures you aren’t 100% comfortable sharing. Otherwise, that is a red flag that there is a problem in the relationship.
Sexting is legal for adults but not for those under 18. Sexually explicit photos of teens are considered child pornography, so possessing and distributing those pictures are illegal, even if it is consensual. These pictures might even be used by sex traffickers if it becomes publicly available. States are trying not to prosecute teens like they do sex traffickers, but that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of legal problems. See the link below to find out the laws in your state.
What you can do:
- Pause! Think before you send, especially if you feel uncomfortable or pressured. If there is respect in the relationship, the other person will understand if you say no.
- It is never okay for an adult to ask for a sexual picture of you. Tell a trusted adult.
- Delete any sexually explicit selfies you have on your phone or that someone has sent to you.
- Ask anyone who has a picture you sent to delete it.
- Block anyone who sends a sexual picture to you who is a stranger or is harassing you.
- Get help from a trusted adult or your school if you are being harassed online.
- Don’t unintentionally be part of the child pornography industry by sending a picture of yourself or someone else.
Impact of Faith: You may think that sexting is better than sex outside of marriage, it is still part of sexual immorality, which will harm you spiritually. “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you…For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Ephesians 5:3-5 NKJV This verse doesn’t only warn us against fornication (sex before marriage) but also against unclean behavior, which would include sexting. Galatians 6:8 promises us that “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” NKJV. Once sexual desire is activated, it can be hard to control.
If you have participated in sexting or other sexual behavior before marriage, do not feel that you won’t go to heaven. 1 John 1:9 tells us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Make sure to spend time in prayer and read the Bible regularly so the Holy Spirit can give you guidance when you are unsure of what to do in these situations and to help you cope with sexual urges. You may have to end relationships if you are still pressured after saying no, as Proverbs 13:20 advises us, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” NKJV
To find out the sexting laws in your state check out this website: https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-laws
Bianchi, D., Morelli, M., Nappa, M.R., Baiocco, R., Chirumbolo, A. (2021). A bad romance: Sexting motivations and teen dating violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(13-14), 6029-6049.
Strasburger, V.C., Zimmerman, H., Temple, J.R., & Madison S. (2019). Teenagers, sexting, and the law. Pediatrics, 143(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2018-3183.