Sexting – what parents need to know

Teens probably don’t realize they are breaking the law when they send nude pictures of themselves via their cellphones (called “sexting”). However, it is illegal and they can be prosecuted for distributing pornography. If convicted, they would have to register as a sex offender.

How big a problem is this? According to Common Sense Media, “22% of teen girls and 20% of teen boys have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves”. Given the significance of the consequences, it’s wise for parents to discuss this with their kids before there’s a problem.

Below is advice for parents provided by Common Sense Media in their article "Talking About Sexting":

  • Don't wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child’s friend before you talk to your kids about the consequences of sexting. Sure, talking about sex or dating with teens can be really uncomfortable, but better to have the talk before the fact.
  • Remind them that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved -- and they will lose control of it. Ask teens how they would feel if their teachers, parents, or the entire school saw the picture, because it happens all the time.
  • Talk about pressures to send revealing photos. Let teens know that you understand that they can be pushed or dared into sending something. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation will be hundreds of times worse.
  • The buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, have them delete it immediately. Better to be part of the solution than the problem. Besides, if they do send it on, they're distributing pornography -- and that’s against the law.
  • If you can’t deal with this, have your kids go to (and you should go yourself). It’s a fabulous site that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands.


Laura McCann said...

Thanks for the link! I have saved it to my favorites and I am going to get my children to go through it. Scary stuff, this!

Paula said...

Most cell phone companies have usage or parental controls that can be used to turn off phone features. Limits include phonenumbers, time of day, text and picture messaging. Parents are in control.

Thanks for the post.

Kathy Slattengren said...

Great point - parents can often set limits through their phone company.

Digital technology certainly gives parents plenty to keep up with. I just found out from my 13-year-old son that he can send pictures through his Wii. Although my children don't have texting on their phones (I don't want the extra charge), they do have digital cameras and computer access (allowing two step sexting!). I plan to have short, on-going conversations with them on topics around responsibilities and consequences of these technologies.

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