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You MUST Talk about Sexting with Your Kids

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A recent momlogic survey uncovered some interesting yet not surprising results: Teens are sexting, and parents didn't have a clue.

Mom and daughter talking

Lori Getz: The results are astounding! A full 44% of teens said they have been involved in a sexting incident (either as the sender or the recipient of the image). However, less than a quarter of their parents knew about the situation prior to taking the momlogic challenge!

The majority of teens surveyed believe that sexting is just part of being a teenager. One teen (in a separate interview) went so far as to call it a "rite of passage." Overall, teens do not see sexting as a big deal or as having long-term consequences.

Of those teens who admitted to sexting, only 38 percent reported knowing that sexting could lead to becoming a registered sex offenders, and only 1 in 5 teens believe that sexting is being sexually active!

"It's pretty far-fetched," said a 15-year-old boy who admitted to sexting. "Not every teen who sexts becomes a registered sex offender."

This is the attitude I see often when talking to teens. They've heard the stories but haven't seen the consequences firsthand. What they are missing is that even if the legal consequences seem far-fetched, there are other consequences that are more prevalent: emotional consequences, consequences of longevity and even sexual abuse.

Sexting is being sexually active! You are sharing your body with another individual. However, when you sext, you have no control over who ultimately you are sharing your body with. These images can be circulated and ultimately end up all over the 'net. "Although sexual abuse in the eyes of the law requires a physical interaction, as a therapist, I see things differently," said a therapist who specializes in treating rape victims and other sexually assaulted teens. "Children can be sexually abused by someone who manipulates them into performing sex acts on camera or sending sexually explicit photos to gratify the individual at the other end. They can also feel abused when a balance of power shifts and they are no longer control of their own sexual destiny. In cases where sexting is concerned, the victim gave up power when they sent the image and now the recipient of the image is exploiting that power. This can be devastating to the victims' self-esteem and ability to trust!"

Several studies, including a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, has cited a correlation between parents talking to their children about being sexually active and a teen's sexual behavior (even the delay of becoming sexually active). Over and over again, we see where communication between parents and teens is vital to the decision-making process for our young people. (Just because they are rolling their eyes doesn't mean they don't hear us.) So it's time to start talking about sexting, too!

Parents have reported not talking about sexting for several reasons, such as: they don't know what it is, they don't believe their child would participate in such an act, and they don't know how to start the conversation.

So now that we know what it is and that many teens ARE in fact participating ... it's time to talk about how to start the conversation:

Don't make it a BIG talk! Teenagers can smell a lecture from a mile away.

TV, movies, radio and the Internet give us plenty of opportunities to talk about sex and sexuality. Pick up on what a celebrity has done recently and start there. Talking about someone else's behavior is often a segue to a bigger conversation. Ask your child how they feel about it and really LISTEN. You can incorporate sexting by reminding your child that sexting is also part of being sexually active, and discuss the lack of control issue associated with it.

When you get them new technology, talk about it. Explaining how the new technology (including a webcam or cell phone that takes pictures or video) is to be used appropriately is a great time to talk about sexting.

When/if you find out your child has sexted, instead of berating them, ask them why! What brought them to making this decision? Sometimes teenagers are manipulated into sexting. Sometimes it's just a terrible decision! Ask questions first and get the whole story before deciding how to proceed. Your child may be a victim in the situation and if you yell first, they are not going to be as likely to come to you for help again.


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13 comments so far | Post a comment now
Mike February 8, 2010, 7:56 AM

Why cant the phone companies monitor and eliminate the pix before it gets to the intended phone?

Concerned mom February 8, 2010, 8:41 AM

I got a call recently from the school informing me of an incident involving my daughter. To my shock the counselor told me that a semi nude picture of my daughter was circulating on the cell phones of the 8th grade. She said she had been pressured by a boy from another school to send her a photo of herself or else he would start bad rumors about her. The ironic part about this is that she has never dated a boy, rarely goes out, and only knew this boy via texting, a friend of a friend. We had a lengthy talk about how potentially dangerous this could have been (what if the person was posing as someone her age but was an adult predator?), as well as how this is her body and she should own it and respect it. I don’t know if we handled it all that well. She felt terrible. We took away her phone (it’s been 5 weeks), deleted her facebook account and eliminated sleepovers (those were coming to an end anyway soon, a house rule that after 14, no more sleepovers). I would love to hear what other parents do. I can’t keep her isolated forever. She will get her phone back this week. She also has an ipod touch - how do I put safe restrictions on the internet portion of this device. Concerned mom

Doug  February 8, 2010, 10:13 AM

The issue is not sexting, this issue is peer pressure. As parents we have to begin conversations at an early age about succumbing to peer pressure. Teaching kids to stand on their own merits and morals as a person who respects themselves and others is not an easy task. Modeling is a lost art in our social construct platitudes like “I’m an adult, you’re a child” “If everybody jumped off a bridge” don’t carry much weight in the peer pressure arena. We don’t like to have to look at our lives to see if we bear any responsibility and its painful when we see copability. Concerned mom stay engaged now that you know your daughter is susceptible to peer pressure. I think you have handled the consequences well in providing discipline, conversation and now giving her the ability to be trusted with the phone again. The internet provides so many opportunities to connect with the world. But we must be mindful to ask the questions what are the possible traps & pitfalls. Parents must be willing to parent and raise healthy human beings. Good Luck Concerned Mom.

marina February 8, 2010, 1:34 PM

I have a 12-year-old daughter and we raised her in a very wholesome home environment. I never would have expected something like this from her, but during her second year in middle school she started changing her appearance (trying to look sexy) and her grades began taking a turn from A’s and B’s to D’s and F’s. Then I found out she had been using her phone for sexting, giving our home address out to complete strangers (even after we had had several really intense conversations about the severity and consequences of that) And I found she had created a MySpace, (which she was not allowed to have)wth some very provocative pictures of herself. I was shocked my daughter was getting involved with sexting and the other social media that allowed it. I took extreme measure and placed restrictions on her phone so she could only communicate with family and very close family friends, and only allowed her to use the internet in my presence, in the living room. But she became rebellious and told me she wanted to go live with her dad (where supervision is limited). Take it from a mother who has been through a lot of heartbreak this past year: WATCH YOUR CHILDREN! Give them lots of attention and plan a lot of activities with them so they don’t have much idle time to waste on these things. Know who their friends are.
We need to take a stand as parents to stop this abuse of social media networks; they need to be restricted more. They are not influencing the future generations in a positive way. Lets set a good example for our children. How? Lets talk about what we can do to change this atrocity that is making our children grow up too fast and causing adversity in families.

Concerned mom February 9, 2010, 8:58 AM

My daughter will get her phone back today. I will remind her about respecting herself. I wonder if the public humiliation and scorn from some of her friends which she endured will be enough to prevent her from doing it again. How many girls are doing this with the “trusted” boyfriend? How many girls are doing this and not getting caught? We can keep our kids busy (my daughter has very little free time between sports and activities.) She did this in the privacy of her bedroom, I probably was downstairs. This is perhaps one of those parenting moments where we hope and pray that we are planting the seeds of self respect and modeling good behavior. Our kids are living in a different world technologically. We won’t be able to isolate them forever. It feels like I can only hope for the best and keep talking about self respect. And that doesn’t feel like enough.

Anonymous February 12, 2010, 5:59 AM

Frankly, should anyone be “sexting”? No… well, unless you don’t appreciate dignity and being treated as a whole person. Let’s be frank, are many men/boys sexting pictures of themselves, no. It’s girls and women. Thus, really, sexting is just another means of dehumanizing and comoditizing female sexuality. It’s horrible when children do it obviously, but it’s no better for adults.

marina February 12, 2010, 8:22 AM

I agree and disagree. I agree that no one should be sexting for all the same reasons; however, I disagree with “are many men/boys sending pictures of themselves…”? NO! There were boys sending indecent pictures of themselves to my daughter too. I don’t thing adult men are into sexting pictures but teen and young adult boys definitely are.

Also I agree with concerned mom, that even if your child is involved in sports and busy with other activities, she will find a way to sext and usually it’s when you least expect it. Like you said, she would be texting when she was in her room; perhaps before showering, in the bathroom, or while doing her homework. Kids are clever these days— much clever than we were because they have the means to be more independent and secretive about what is going on in their lives…thanks again to “technology without boundaries.” Don’t get me wrong; I love technology and all it’s conveniences, but the technology of parenting needs to evolve alongside our changing world.
We need a new “Parenting Handbook” to keep up with the way technology is affecting our children. We need methods of supervision and control that don’t make them feel “imprisoned” and keeps the wholesomeness in their lives and in families.

Thanks for making this forum available for discussion of these impactful subject matters. Change begins with a conversation. And if we all talk about it, we can come up with solutions and make a difference for our generation and the next.

Anonymous February 13, 2010, 4:13 PM

To concerned mom~

Young girls aren’t the only ones who make the mistake of sexting. About a year ago, when I was seventeen I made the mistake of sexting with an ex boyfriend. When we broke up my pictures weren’t just all over school, but they were all over the web. It was terrifying. Luckily, my mother never found out.. But after that, I never sexted again. Isolating your daughter, I’m sure seems like a great idea, but it is a probably one of the worst. When I was a teen, when ever my mother tried to pull that move on me, I purposely rebelled. For one thing, I’m sure your daughter learned her lesson about sexting after a picture got around of her, plenty of kids are saying nasty things about he behind her back, and is punishment enough. Isolating her is just going to make things harder.

I may not have a teenager, but only a few years ago, I was a teenager.

Taking her phone away for a while, was a good idea though. It will show her that your serious about the no sexting thing..

None March 10, 2010, 11:04 PM

To concerned mom- I have an iPod Touch, and there are different ways to restrict the internet. You can put the safesearch in google on. Another way is there are apps that can be installed that block all adult material on the web. You may not be aware of this, but your daughter is able to take pics using a digital camera and put them on the computer and then add them to ber iTouch. You may want to check her photks on it once in a while because there are many apps that allow texting and some that allow picture messaging when connected to wifi. If you dont want any of this, you could go to her settings then wifi, then touch the name of your wireless modem, then choose forget it. You may want to change the password to prevent her from re-establishing a connection. You can change the password. Just look on the modem that broadcasts your wireless signal and find the IP address (should be a 9 or 10 digit figure seperated by periods) and enter it into the URL bar of your computer, then log in or create an account if you have yet to do so, then change the password to any 10 digit numeric password. The default password is the IP address. Hope this helps, I’m a teenager who’s 15 and would never partake in any of this, but my sister seems the type that may so I keep her in check for my parents who don’t know much about technology.

Marquis Zepf December 20, 2010, 7:26 AM

I’d have to engage with you here. Which is not something I usually do! I really like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

Matthew C. Kriner February 27, 2011, 5:55 AM

Totaly agree, great post!

teens April 1, 2011, 8:03 AM


tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:31 AM

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