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Teen Sexting: Information for Parents

On Friday October 17, 2014, Dan O’Neil, Birmingham Maple Clinic therapist, spoke with WJR’s Paul W. Smith on the topic of sexting. This interview addressed growing parent concern following the recent legal issues plaguing hundreds of teens in two metro-Detroit communities.

Sexting, the act of sending sexually explicit messages, primarily between mobile phones, differs from child pornography in Dan’s opinion. The law in the State of Michigan, however, still prosecutes the recipient of an explicit picture as a sex offender as the current laws were not written to address sexting issues. Dan O’Neil has specialized training in the treatment of both sex offenders as well as victims.

Dan sees these sexting pictures, which he calls YPSIs (Youth Produced Sexual Images),  as different from child pornography. YPSIs are pictures created by teens, to be received by other teens, usually a boyfriend or girlfriend, and are typically sent via mobile phone. The pictures are intended to flirt and impress, much as a game of “Truth or Dare” would have been played in the past.

In the interview with Paul W. Smith, Dan advises to avoid scare tactics. He says teens lack insufficient skills at regulating themselves and parents can best intervene by limiting screen time and available data. By limiting the amount of data time kids have parents can reduce the likelihood they will sext. According to Dan kids who are involved in activities and are not isolated are also less likely to send or receive sexually explicit pictures.

If you are concerned about your child and their exposure to sexually explicit texts you may find value in speaking to a therapist. Birmingham Maple Clinic has a variety of individual, couple and family therapist that may be of service to you or your child. To schedule an appointment visit www.birminghammaple.com or call (248) 646-6659.

To hear the interview in full, please click here.