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How can I help prevent my teen from sexting?

Shawn Edgington
Pediatrics

A quick and easy way to prevent your teen from sexting (sending a sexual text message or sexually explicit photo by text message) is to request your service provider to restrict the sending of pictures and videos from their cell phone. Most wireless providers don't charge to eliminate this service, and your teens will still be able to text. They can still take photos, but they won't be able to share them with their friends.

There are software applications you can purchase to monitor all of your teen's cell phone and Internet activity, including photos and text message content. Some of these software applications will also allow you to print a detailed report with all the information included. If you leave the monitoring of text messages and photos to a software program, there will be no guarantee that all potential damaging content will be recognized.

Children can outsmart even the smartest of software. Most children whose parents monitor using software use newer technologies (available in the iTunes App store) to dodge and "work around" any type of monitoring software. The fact is that you will probably never know that your child is using technology to avoid your monitoring. Remember, there's no substitute for your "personal" parenting.

It's also necessary to monitor any camera, video recorder, or webcam as inappropriate photos and videos can be easily uploaded to any social networking site, such as Facebook or YouTube, from these devices.

Many parents don't feel that they have the right to monitor their child's private conversations, photos, or videos, but you do. What's important to remember is that you are most likely paying your child's monthly cell phone bill and providing access to the Internet. You are the parent, which makes you the authority in your household. It's your primary responsibility to do whatever you need to do in order to protect your children and avoid a one-click nightmare from occurring in your home.

Erik Fisher
Psychology
To help decrease the chance of your child engaging in sexting:

1. Be proactive. Plan years ahead and keep communication open. If you encourage and foster non-judgmental, reflective communication when they are young, it will encourage it as they grow.

2. Teach problem-solving skills and be honest about your appraisal of your kids. Many parents live in denial of their kid's behaviors until it is too late, because they either don't want to think they have failed as parents or don't want to see their kids as having problems.

3. Talk to your kids about these types of activities and ask them their feelings about it. Ask them if they know any peers who may have been engaging in this and how do they view them. If they don't want to give names, respect that.

4. If your child has had a tendency to hide behaviors from you, request random searches of phone and computer data. While they may have an issue with this, if they have nothing to hide, they should understand that you are protecting them and you.

5. Understand that while your child me be in denial, sexting is a behavior that communicates deeper issues and a lack of confidence and self-respect. Arrogance is a protective emotion. Be careful not to shame or humiliate them. Help them to realize the dangers and deeper issues.

6. Be willing to get help from a professional. Many times, you are too close to your kids to help them look at these issues and resolve them.
Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Be proactive. Plan years ahead and keep communication open. If you encourage and foster non-judgmental, reflective communication when they are young, it will encourage open communication as they grow.

Teach problem-solving skills and be honest about your appraisal of your kids. Many parents live in denial of their kid's behaviors until it is too late, because they either don't want to think they have failed as parents or don't want to see their kids as having problems.

Talk to your kids about these types of activities and ask them their feelings about it. Ask them if they know any peers who may have been engaging in this and how do they view them.

If your child has had a tendency to hide behaviors from you, request random searches of phone and computer data. While they may have an issue with this, if they have nothing to hide, they should understand that you are protecting them.

Understand that while your child me be in denial, sexting is a behavior that communicates deeper issues and a lack of confidence and self-respect. Be careful not to shame or humiliate them. Help them to realize the dangers and deeper issues.

Be willing to get help from a professional. Many times, you are too close to your kids to help them look at these issues and resolve them.

Keep the lines of communication open with your teen or young adult about sexting. Here are some parenting tips to help you begin the conversation:

Parenting Tips for the Tween/Young Teen:

  • Have a chat with your teen about the repercussions of sexting and the adverse effect it can have on their life. Make sure they know that a click of a button can lead to life altering consequences.
  • The best way to engage a teen in a conversation about sexting is with open ended questions. For example, "What is sexting?", "Do you know anyone who has ever sexted before?", or "Do you know what can happen to those who get exposed for sexting?" You'll get a lot more out of your teen if you ask a question that allows them to answer in their own words rather than "yes" or "no".
  • Establish a cell phone safety contract outlining your rules and expectations for your teen's use of the phone. Be sure to include what kinds of photos are not acceptable. The earlier you do this the better.

Parenting Advice for the Older Teen/College Student:

Talk to your son or daughter regarding the dangers of sexting. At this age older teens are trying to emerge into young adulthood. While they want to be viewed as more responsible and mature, they still need your guidance. Have those open and honest conversations with your older teen about the pressures of relationships, making wise decisions, and being safe in the virtual world. Don't try to pull the control card out on an older teen, as it may back fire. If you want them to truly listen to your message, the last thing that you need to do is remind them that you're paying their college tuition and imply cutting them off if they don't abide by your rules. This is also true in situations other than sexting.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.