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How do I keep my child from using a cell phone for sexting?

Shawn Edgington
Pediatrics
“Not my child!” is what most parents think when the topic of sexting is brought up in conversation.

According to The National Campaign, 33% of teenagers have admitted to sexting. The number increases to 36% when it comes to young adult women. What can you do to prevent sexting?
  • Eliminate the MMS feature from your teens’ cell phone plan. MMS = pictures/videos that can be sent/received by cell phone.
  • Keep the lines of communication open between you and your teen
  • Understand there are predators everywhere, and your children need to be protected from them
  • Take an occasional look at stored photos on your child’s cell phone
  • Read Between the Lines, keep your eyes open for any strange behavior surrounding their cell phone usage
Unfortunately, sexting is a reality and it’s becoming more common than we’d like to believe. To be pro-active around the subject of sexting, it’s best to sit down with your kids to set texting boundaries. Be sure to explain the potentially serious consequence to ANY kind of sex texting, including what to do if and when they ever receive any naked or obscene photo.

You should also include “what not to do” in your sexting discussion… which is to NEVER forward these types of texts out to their friends.

Tips to protect your child from sexting:

  • Explain the legal ramifications of sexting.  Many teens have been jailed, and placed on probation all because of sexting.  Worse yet, they could be charged with the distribution of child pornography if a sexually explicit picture of a minor is being distributed.
  • Discuss how sexting can have an impact on his/her future.  Many college representatives and prospective job employers search online for information on potential candidates.  If they find something that is detrimental or shows poor judgment, it can actually hurt his/her chances of getting into college or securing a job. 
  • Be upfront with your teen about resisting peer pressure.  Teach them to be confident in who they are and not to feel pressured to do something they know is wrong. 
  • Speak with your teen about not responding impulsively to anything on-line or via text. Filtering can help a trigger happy teen from making a permanent, potentially life altering mistake. Encourage your teen to evaluate the consequences of posting their thoughts or pictures before hitting the send button.
  • Speak about online reputations.  Discuss how sexting may have a detrimental impact on what others will think of them.
  • Be honest about sex.  Speak with them about sex, meaningful relationships, STDs and pregnancy.  You would much rather have this talk in preventative mode rather than after something has already happened. 
  • Speak with your teen about being a responsible digital citizen.  Help your teen understand that messages or pictures sent over the Internet or phones are not private or anonymous. 
  • Discuss the need to periodically monitor pictures on the phone, websites visited and social media sites. 
  • Lastly, encourage an open dialogue between you and your teen. Set aside some time each day to just listen and talk with your teen about what's going on in his/her life. 

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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.