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“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?
Amy Williams is a journalist and mother in Southern California.