Cell phones are becoming more ubiquitous with teens and tweens texting their friends every chance they can get. While this isn’t generally an issue, and can even provide smiles and a fun way to communicate with peers, there is a concern with a type of texting called sexting.
Sexting is the sharing of nude or near nude pictures by cell phone texts. Sexting is different from sending suggestive text messages, which although also a subject of concern, is not the same as sending an actual photo of one’s self in the nude with possibly a suggestive text message accompanying it.
So how can you protect your child from, and teach your child about, the implications and consequences of sexting?
It helps to understand first why teens engage in sexting.
Did you know that one in ten teens have sent sexts with one in three actually receiving them?
Peer pressure and low self-esteem can equally contribute to sexting. Some teens and tweens are more rebellious and want to break away from the norm of their family dynamics. Along with this rebelliousness comes the feeling of being liberated or grown-up and some even think it is a romantic gesture. In extreme cases, some teens even offer sexting in exchange for something they want.
It also helps to understand some statistics about sexting.
Cox Communications also reports more girls than boys will sext their friends. Most teens, boys and girls alike, don’t get caught sexting but if an image gets forwarded to unintended eyes, the results can be devastating. A high percentage, around 80 percent, believe sexting isn’t right, but nevertheless, many of them from this percentile do it anyway to play the part of their peers.
It helps to educate your teen about the dangers of sexting.
Just sternly telling your teens not to sext won’t stop them – they’re not robots and won’t just follow orders. Let's face it, teens are ultra-smart with technology and they probably can outwit you on the computer. The best way to educate your teen about sexting is to talk with them – not to them, but with them. Show them you understand their peer pressures by asking them to share what’s going on, sitting down with them and being straight-forward.
Tell them your concerns about their privacy and ask them if they’ve ever experienced sexting in any way – but be nonconfrontational. Your teens will be more willing to open up and share if they don’t feel threatened or resentful about how they’re being treated.
It also helps to emphasize the legal implications of sexting. Explain how receiving a sext should never be shared because it is a violation of privacy laws and could land your child to jail.
And if you have found some evidence that your teen may already be sexting, it may help to consider a Parental Intelligence System to monitor their mobile actions and have responsible conversations in a way that helps your child feel less rebellious or influenced by peers and more grounded and confident within themselves.
Finally, it helps to monitor cell phone use in the home.
Certain rules will help you keep tabs on your child’s cell phone use. You can keep phone chargers in your bedroom so kids won’t have access to their cell phones after bedtime. You can keep your children from using their cell phones at certain hours of the day such as dinner time. And of course, you can use a Parental Intelligence System.
Communicating with your teens and establishing specified ground rules will help your child feel supported and deter them from falling into peer pressure of sexting.