My Daughter is Sexting – Now What?

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sexting

“I just found out my daughter has been sexting,” cried my friend over the phone.

It was late and I was preparing a breakfast casserole for the next morning when I got the call. My friend was distraught and at her wit’s end. Her 15 year old daughter had been sexting her boyfriend. Earlier that evening, his mother heard his phone beeping and naturally opened the screen. She found explicit messages between her son and my friend’s daughter that were sent from secret facebook accounts.

My friend was horrified when she found the livid boyfriend’s mother standing on her doorstep. A heated discussion followed that resulted with blame hurled at my friend’s daughter for being promiscuous and corrupting the boyfriend. After a serious conversation and reassuring my friend that everything would be fine, I stood back and examined the sexting phenomenon.

Sexting is defined as “the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually­ suggestive images or video via a cell phone.” Research shows about 20% of today’s teens have sent, received, or done both when it comes to sexting. As children develop their sexual identity, technology becomes a new outlet for sexual exploration.

Many teens are under the impression that sexting is fun and a harmless way to fool around without any consequences.

However, sexting creates a potentially volatile situation. My friend’s daughter gets high marks in school, is involved in church, and is well behaved. If the sexting became public, her daughter would be exposed to ridicule and negative backlash.

It’s important for parents to stay focused on their teens and offer support. Parents need to be aware of fads and how teens communicate with each other, so as to be proactive with sexting and have open discussions with their daughters before a situation develops.

Stress to your daughter that sex is not something to be joked about.

It’s a confirmation of love between two committed individuals. Sex is something special for husbands and wives in a committed loving relationship and needs to be treated with respect.

Inform your daughter that inappropriate photos and videos have a way of popping up years later.

If something was sent privately today, that doesn’t mean it will stay that way tomorrow. People take screenshots or download files – many jilted exes have shared personal posts. A photo can show up on social media and ruin college applications, careers, and families.

Unfortunately, sexting can be considered a felony.

If a teen is underage, authorities will consider indecent pictures child pornography. They will prosecute the sender and the person receiving the pictures. If found guilty, the child will be listed on the sex offender registry and convictions severely limit professions, jobs, and places they can reside.

Social media opens you up to harassment and bullying.

A post between friends may easily slip into the wrong hands and go viral. Take action to avoid humiliation and stress to your daughter to keep her posts clean.

Monitor your daughter’s usage and take away social media if you suspect a problem.

If she needs access for schoolwork, allow her a computer in common areas where she can be seen at all times and install software to monitor online activity. It’s always better to be cautious then live a life of regret.

The main thing to stress is that your daughter needs to respect herself.

If her boyfriend is encouraging risky behaviors, then it’s time to move on. The right boy will respect her ideals and look out for her well-being. Your daughter needs to know that she is worth more than a sext.

Parents might feel lost in a world of technology and lurking threats, but communicating with your daughter and regulating her access to social media can greatly reduce her chances of being hurt online. Set limits on the amount of time she can spend online, establish “no phone zones”, and forbid phones in bedrooms or bathrooms.

The girl typically gets blamed for sexting. It’s a double standard that girls must be aware of. If my friend’s daughter had been armed with knowledge about sexting and how it could cost her, she might have made better decisions. Tears would have been spared and her parents would still trust their daughter.

What are your thoughts on teen sexting?

Disclosure

Amy Williams is a journalist and mother in Southern California.

Comments

  1. Jacqueline Gum says:

    This whole phenomenon has always been baffling to me! But you have offered some sound and practical advice. Teaching these kids to respect themselves is key, I think! Maybe it all stems from wanting to be liked. In the old days, those were the girls who were actually having sex long before they were emotionally ready to handle the consequences. But now, those pictures will last forever…so sad.

    • I agree! Kids need to be more careful these days of what they do on electronic devices. Their bad decisions can now last a lifetime!

  2. I no longer have children to worry about but my hairdresser was telling me about her son’s phone by the police, not because he was sexting but was friends with some who were. The ex-boyfriend of the girl involved decided to send the pictures he had of her around to his friends. Naturally, this got out of hand to the point where the girl had to tell her parents who contacted the police.
    We keep hearing the same warnings about sexting but I really think we need more awareness of the long-term consequences as you pointed out.
    Your suggestions about cyber safety are right on – too bad this can’t be send around to every home.

    • Stories like the one your hairdresser told need to be told to teens more often. Maybe it will scare them out of doing something they will more def regret later on.

  3. Not having any children myself, I may not be the best to comment. But it appears you have observed the situation properly, and you recommendations are accurate. I am sure this will be beneficial to parents in this situation.

  4. Phoenicia says:

    Sexting is wrong. I too believe that sexual intimacy belongs within a marriage.

    The pressures teenagers face these days is immense whether they are in or outside of the church. The need to be accepted seems to out weigh their morals and values.

    FB, Twitter, Instagram means their life is on show 24 hours a day. Years back once you left the school gates you had no connection with your peers, only friends you chose to contact.

    Our children need to be spoken to at a young age. We must not wait until an issue arises.

    • I agree. Preventative measures will def help this situation out. Kids need to learn to be happy with who they are and know that real friends won’t force you to do something you’ll regret later.

  5. Beth Niebuhr says:

    I think stories are the best way to get a point across to teens. They just don’t think they will run into problems. So did we when we were young. Real stories about real people may help. Angry exes can really cause problems online if they decide to. I’m glad my kids are long grown up.

    • I think stories do help Beth. I’m not looking forward to the teen year with my boys. The internet makes it even worse than when I was a kid.

  6. I am so glad that sexting wasn’t around when my middle daughter was a teenager because she would have been doing it for sure, it is a real worry as they really have no idea what it can lead to being embarrassed is only the start if the person who receives the text shares it about.

  7. Ken Dowell says:

    I’m trying to think of how and if these points will resonate with a teenager. surely it is important to point out privacy issues and how inappropriate photos have been used against people online and in social media. Sometimes I think the issue is who delivers the message. Would resonate a lot more if it came from peers rather than parents or teachers.

    • Not a bad thought Ken. Teens do listen to their friends more. Maybe if students that have been affected by this give a speech at their schools that would help? But then they probably would be too afraid to do that.

  8. Presumably the daughter will be getting a driver’s license in the not-too-distant future. The concept of “defensive driving” applies not just to driving but to a lot of things in life – no matter how careful *you* are, you should always be on the alert for those who aren’t so careful – so perhaps you could make that kind of argument to her with regard to being prudent online.

    • Love the connection Andy! You are very right. Being defensive can be applied to a lot of things. I hope your daughter’s teen years are easy for you!

  9. I recently saw a documentary on this topic. I should admit right out of the gate though that the whole thing is kind of weird to me but then I don’t often text the normal stuff so I guess I am behind the times anyway. But back to this subject, the one thing that you did mention that I find critical for youngsters to be informed of is the criminality of it all. There have been many cases of child pornography charges being brought down on the unsuspecting. I can’t imagine any crime being worth it but this one; absolutely not.

    • Yes, maybe if they know it can end in criminal charges they will be less likely to do it. A prank is one thing but going to jail may get through to them. I hope Tim.

  10. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    How scary! I am dreading what my kids get into when they are older.

  11. I regularly check my teens phone. If I ever caught hime doing that there would be a long talk.

  12. Personally I am not a fan of sexting but I don’t judge anyone that chooses to!

  13. This is definitely a very scary stage, but, it is a right of passage (of sorts). You give great tips here.

  14. First of all, I think it was extremely unfair of that boyfriends mother to place blame solely on the girl’s shoulders. Both parties were guilty in my book, becuase I highly doubt there was no provocation on his end. Kids, especially teenagers, tend to live in the moment and refuse to look at the consequences before they leap into a decision. Your advice is great, we need to help inform our children of the dangers sexting can create.

  15. Elizabeth O. says:

    Unfortunately, this is a reality we all have to face as parents. We have to be clear and open with our kids but there’s only so much we can do. Educating them is part of it yes, but their actions are theirs alone.

  16. Such a scary thing, but I agree that parents should try to stay focused on their teens and offer support. Thanks for the suggestions

  17. And that is the reason why boys grow up to be irresponsible men. How is this the girl’s fault? they were both in this so all they had to do was speak to them together as parents.

  18. That is why smart phones and computer and such should be monitored. Teen boys and girls need to have real conversations about sex and technology too not just the regular birds and the bees. I will be honest the reason kids are sneaking and being rebellious when it come to sex and resorting to sexting is out of curiosity and even rebellion. More parents need to not be scared to talk about SEX and SEXTING…just be more honest and truthful and definitely bring up about future social hauntings of sexting consequences of floating pictures and things live on the internet forever and even people preying on these images.

    • Yes, us parents get the more complicated birds and bees talk. Yay! LOL. What age do you think is good to start talking to kids about this stuff?

  19. I am not sure what I’d do as a parent. Thankfully right now my kids don’t know what so is, but obviously that won’t always be the case.

  20. Very controversial subject. Thnks for raising awareness about this.

  21. Jessica Cassidy says:

    I have two kids and one just turned 13 years. It is a scary thing. Good thing they do not have any cell phones yet. You just have to talk to her and be calm and tell her the dos and don’t. I know it is easy said than done.

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