TEXTING & SEXTING ABUSE
Sexting is sending sexually explicit text or photographs via mobile devices. Sometimes teens share the photographs voluntarily, but at other times teens may be coerced into taking or sending the photographs. Once the photos are sent, some kids use them to bully, harass, intimidate, or embarrass victims online or via mobile devices. Sexting between minors is a felony and can have serious legal consequences. You could be charged with a crime. If convicted you could be labeled as a sex offender for the rest of your life.Think before you "sext." Never send or post sexually provocative pictures. Once the picture is out there, it will never go away. Don't risk your future college or employment hopes and your reputation with family, friends, teachers, and neighbors who could see the photos. Remember that healthy relationships should be based on mutual respect, not just sexual attraction. Sometimes, boyfriends and girlfriends share intimate photos with each other. Since one photo can reach thousands via websites and mobile devices, make sure you never share these photos with friends and classmates.
Texting and Sexting
Next to talking one-on-one, texting is currently one of the most instant forms of communication. While texting might be the perfect platform to say a quick "hi," there are some things to watch out for in a textual relationship with your partner.
Texting Too Much
If your partner texts too much, it's not only irritating, but unnecessary. Keeping in touch with your significant other throughout the day can be thoughtful, but constant contact is probably over-doing it. Consider talking to your partner about giving you a little bit of space. Remember, if they're using texting messaging to monitor everywhere you go, that is a warning sign of abuse.
Does your partner ask for inappropriate pictures of you? Or send them to you? Even if you trust that your partner will be the only one to ever see the pictures, you can never guarantee that they won't end up on someone else's phone or online. Seriously consider playing it safe and making a policy of not sending and instantly deleting inappropriate photos. The same goes for webcams and instant messaging, too. Remember you never have to do anything you aren't comfortable with, no matter how much your partner pressures you.
Sexting can also have legal consequences. Any nude photos or video of someone under 18 could be considered child pornography, which is always illegal. Even if whoever sent the image did so willingly, the recipient can still get in a lot of trouble.
Reading Someone Else's Texts
Does your partner ask to read your texts? Or read them behind your back? Healthy relationships are built on trust, not jealousy. You have the right to privacy and the ability to talk to whomever you like. You may want to explain to your partner that you have nothing to hide, but don't like them going through your phone or deciding who your friends are. If your partner refuses to change, you could be in an unhealthy relationship. Take our quiz to find out if there are other warning signs in your relationships.
Threats over Text
Threats over text should be taken seriously -- try not to write them off as angry venting. Keep track of threatening texts and think about talking to someone you trust about what is happening. Being in a violent relationship is dangerous -- don't going through it alone.
What Can I Do?
Whether you feel like your partner is already using their cell phone in an abusive way or you're trying to prevent it, here are tips to keep you safe and healthy:
Remember, it's ok to turn off your phone. Just be sure your parent or guardian knows how to contact you in an emergency.
Don't answer calls from unknown or blocked numbers. Your abuser can easily call you from another line if they suspect you are avoiding them.
Don't respond to hostile, harassing, abusive or inappropriate texts or messages. Responding can encourage the person who sent the message and won't get them to stop. Your messages might also get you in trouble and make it harder to get a restraining order or file a criminal report.
Many phone companies can block up to ten numbers from texting or calling you. Contact your phone company or check their website to see if you can do this on your phone.
If you are in or coming out of a dangerous relationship, avoid using any form of technology to contact your abuser. It can be dangerous and may be used against you in the future.
It may seem extreme, but if the abuse and harassment don't stop, changing your phone number may be your best option.
If you are feeling threatened or suffocated by your partner's constant calls or texts, it may be a sign that you are in an unhealthy and potentially abusive relationship. When your partner says or does things that make you afraid, lowers your self-esteem or manipulates you, it is called verbal or emotional abuse. You have the right to be in a safe and healthy relationship free from all types of abuse.
Social Networking Safety
You deserve to be in a safe and healthy relationship, whether in person or online. If your partner is digitally abusive, know their behavior is not acceptable and could be illegal. Check out our tips below for staying safe on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others.
- Only post things you want the public to see or know. Once it's online, it's no longer under your control.
- Be protective of your personal information. Your phone numbers and addresses enable people to contact you directly, and things like your birth date, the schools you attended, your employer and photos with landmarks may make it easier for someone to find where you live, hang out or go to school.
- Set boundaries and limits. Tell people not to post personal information, negative comments or check-ins about you on social media. Ask people not to post or tag pictures if you're not comfortable with it.
- You can keep your passwords private -- sharing passwords is not a requirement of being in a relationship.
- Don't do or say anything online you wouldn't in person. It may seem easier to express yourself when you are not face-to-face, but online communication can have real-life negative consequences.
Abuse or Harassment
- Don't respond to harassing, abusive or inappropriate comments. It won't make the person stop and it could get you in trouble or even put you in danger.
- Keep a record of all harassing messages, posts and comments in case you decide to tell the police or get a restraining order.
- Always report inappropriate behavior to the site administrators.
Leaving an Abusive Relationship
If you are leaving an unhealthy relationship, start by blocking your ex on Facebook and other social networking pages. We recommend you don't check-in on foursquare or other location-based sites or apps -- you don't want your ex or their friends tracking your movements.
Adjust your privacy settings to reduce the amount of information that particular people can see on your page. Privacy settings on sites like Facebook allow the user to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. Remember, registering for some apps require you to change your privacy settings.
Avoid posting private details on your friend's pages. They may not have appropriate settings and doing so may allow someone to see your movements and location. The same goes for tagging yourself in pictures.
Consider what is called a "super-logoff" -- deactivating your Facebook account every time you log off and reactivating it every time you log back on. This way, no one can post on your wall, tag you or see your content when you're offline, but you still have all of your friends, wall posts, photos, etc. when you log back on.
While it is inconvenient and may seem extreme, disabling you social networking page entirely may be your best option to stop continued abuse or harassment.
Your Friends' Safety
If your friend is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, be careful what you post about them. Pictures, locations, check-ins -- even simple statements can be used to control or hurt them. If you're unsure of what's ok to post, get your friend's permission before you click "Share."