"Sexting" is the practice of taking a sexually revealing picture of yourself, typically from a cell phone, and sending it to someone. Unfortunately for parents and school systems alike, this is a growing phenomenon among teenagers today. The most common reason cited by teenagers for engaging in this illicit behavior is that it is "fun or flirtatious." However, this behavior is not only degrading and embarrassing, but it is also illegal. Creating, transmitting, and even possessing a nude, semi-nude, or sexually explicit image of a minor can be considered child pornography. Moreover, it can be prosecuted as a state or federal felony, and it can even lead to having to register as a sex offender.To help combat this growing trend among teenagers, there are several tips for parents:
Tip 1. Help teens build positive self-esteem and a good body image. If a teenager feels positive about her body, she is less likely to seek approval from others. This seeking approval may be a root of some teen's sexting behavior.
Tip 2. Help teens set boundaries. Teenagers need to understand that their body is a sacred space and that no one deserves to view it, much less touch it, without an intimate relationship established-preferably as an adult.
Tip 3. Have access to children's technology. Although some may disagree with this suggestion, we can agree that parents are ultimately responsible for their teenager's behavior. Therefore, parents should be able to access any text message or image at any time on a child's cell phone. No passwords or locks should be allowed between a parent and a child's technology.
Tip 4. Parents need to be up to date on technology. Parents need to have a thorough understanding and working knowledge of what can and cannot be done with the technology in the home.
Tip 5. Talk about it. Just because you (as parents) don't explain what sexting is doesn't mean that children won't get the information elsewhere. Parents must be honest and upfront about their concerns, and they must provide teenagers with an opportunity to ask questions.
Tip 6. Parents should be clear about consequences of sexting with teenagers. Of the things which are absolutely not tolerated, sexting should be high on the list. Parents need to express the consequences of the behavior and make certain that children understand what happens should sexting occur.
Tip 7. Encourage your teen to use the phone. Parents should encourage their teenagers to call their friends using the telephone rather than texting or instant messaging them. Phone calls are one of the safest methods of saying good night.
Tip 8. Check in cell phones at bedtime. Parents should have teenagers turn in their cell phone to them during times when texting isn't allowed. This may include bedtime, homework time, and other events which require peace and quiet.
Tip 9. Keep a cell phone as a privilege and not a right. Although it is convenient to keep up with teenagers by calling them on their cell phones, parents still need to remind their teenagers that having a cell phone is a privilege and something that is earned by positive behavior.
Tip 10. Become familiar with texting acronyms. Teenagers use a totally different language to communicate with their friends. (e.g., CTN: Can't Talk Now; TDTM: Talk Dirty to Me; NIFC: Nude In Front of Camera) Therefore, parents need to be knowledgeable of the acronyms that their teenagers are using when texting.