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June 24, 2020

How COVID Brought a New Wave of Sexting

(Header image via emojipedia)

The onset of COVID-19 has forced everyone across the globe to adjust their normal lifestyles. Indoor activities are the new name of the game, sending everyone online for everything from classes to dating. And for a lot of teens, there’s major pressure to sext, especially on apps like Kik, Snapchat, and other social media sites. Not to mention platforms like OnlyFans, which is dedicated specifically to explicit content.

A lot of people have turned to sexting during this time of isolation, teens included. This sex education teacher in San Francisco had this to say about it: “Based on conversations in my classes (held via Zoom), many teens in romantic relationships are trying to keep their sexual intimacy alive by sexting in ways that are more explicit than they would be if they were able to have physical contact,” (emphasis added). And one girl The New York Times spoke with validated the new wave of sexting: “It just feels good to know people aren’t forgetting about me.”

What is sexting?

So what is considered sexting? The word “sexting” is a combo of “sex” and “texting.” It is literally sending sexually explicit messages via electronic device (computer, smartphone, tablet, gaming console). This can mean saying sexual things via words and emojis, as well as sending suggestive or nude photos.

If you’re starting to panic…

Do not fear. God knows the heart of your teen, and there is great power in His name. He knew that we would stumble, but His grace redeems us. Sexting is often a taboo topic in Christianity, one we feel like we just shouldn’t talk about, but the truth is we all struggle with sin. We need to show our kids how to respect themselves and their peers, while reminding them of the grace Jesus gives us daily.

How many teens are sexting?

According to this 2018 study from JAMA Pediatrics, the number of teens who are sexting is on the rise. One out of every seven teens is sending sexts, and one out of four teens is receiving them.


COVID-19 and sexting

Since COVID-19 lockdowns began, the peach emoji has been used 46% more often than before. This isn’t because lockdowns give people peach cravings; the emoji is often used as a stand-in for a woman’s derrière. According to Forbes:

New data from private social media management firms shows that tech-savvy singles are tweeting the terms “nudes” and “d*** pics” alongside the term “Coronavirus” at a pace 384% higher than just 30 days ago. Now, it’s fair to say the likelihood of “nudes,” “d*** pics” and “Coronavirus” appearing in any tweets before the virus was a national crisis were low, but the size of the increase clearly hints at an “idle hands, devil’s work” scenario.

(Censoring ours.)

Unfortunately, this widespread normalization actually makes it a lot harder to say no than ever before. The New York Times puts it this way:

Many teenagers don’t realize that sexting requires consent or that it can be a violation of trust and possibly the law. Unwelcome sexts may be experienced as sexual harassment and have negative psychological consequences.

If a guy asks for a nude, it’s seen as a compliment. If a couple is sexting, their relationship is seen as fresh, desirable. If people comment with explicit messages on someone’s TikTok, that person may feel attractive, popular, and wanted. Our kids need to be reassured that their value does not come from sexual desirability, but from the fact that they are made in the image of God, and that Jesus died for us so we could have a relationship with Him. They also need us to remind them that it’s okay to say ‘no,’ that they are under no obligation to send sexually explicit photos or texts, even if their friends and everyone else on the internet is saying to do so.

How can I talk to my teen about sexting?

Whether or not your teen is in a relationship, it’s likely they’re no stranger to the idea of sexting. And while we’re not saying that your kid is doing it, we are saying that everything in our culture is telling them to do it, that it’s normal, and even encouraged. TikTok is full of trends, random videos, comments, and DMs normalizing sexual activity. 

As parents, sometimes we’re inclined to say, “Well, I really doubt that my teen is sexting. I don’t need to talk about it.” But even if your child hasn’t sexted, the pressure to do so will only become greater over time. We want to equip them with the tools they need to be wise and make good decisions ahead of time, so they’ll know what to do when confronted with the pressure to sext. For some great tips on entering into this conversation, click here.

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