Teens are digital natives. They've never known life without cell phones or the Internet. For them, engaging in online and digital dating is a normal, every day thing.
"So, when we are talking about participating in sexting it is something that they are seeing as a norm," said Melissa McClain with Akron Children's Hospital.
While the word itself was only added to the dictionary this summer, sexting has been around for a number of years and it's becoming more prevalent among adults and teens. According to a study in JAMA Pediatrics, more than a quarter of all teens have sent a nude photo of themselves and roughly half of all teens have been asked to send a racy photo.
"It can get very serious if a young person is feeling pressured to send a picture of themselves because now they are at a place where maybe their partner is saying, 'Well, if you don't I have these three other people that will send me a picture and I don't need to waste my time with you.'. And, that now has moved into an abusive measure," said McClain.
The pressure to send nude photos isn't the only type of abuse. In fact, digital dating abuse is when a person uses a cell phone or the Internet to name call, manipulate, stalk, harass or intimidate their significant other.
"Here is another way someone who is a victim, here is another way that they can be harassed," said Malinda Gavins with Compass Family and Community Services.
"Now that there is access to cell phones 24 hours a day, it can be difficult for a young person to feel like they have a sanctuary from that abuse," said McClain.
Even when people aren't pressured into sending personal images, the pictures later can be used against them if the relationship goes south. Some people's most personal photos have been posted on websites dedicated to getting revenge on a exes.
"You need to be careful what you transmit even if it's verbal, pictures because once you press that send button it is totally out of your control," said Gavins.
If your children have cell phones, don't assume they're sexting. Give them reasons not to sext and tell them it's illegal in most states.
If you fall victim to digital dating abuse, save your messages. They can be used in court. Experts warn digital dating abuse can be a precursor to physical abuse.