Okay, teens are sexting. Now what?

posted in: Resources

“Teen sexting is a very rational act with very irrational consequences.”

– danah boyd (blog)

According to a recent study of 110,000 students:
14.8 percent had sent sexts, 27.4 percent had received them, 12 percent had forwarded a sext without consent, and 8.4 percent had had it happen to them.

Ummm…my kid…sexting…I can’t even…plz help!

Talk early and often.
Try to have conversations about digital citizenship, online behavior, sexuality and peer pressure before your child gets a phone. Studies have shown that one of the most effective messages from adults is to say, “Once you send a photo you can never control it again.”

Educate yourself.
Talking about sex and technology in one conversation could make even the most composed parents sweat a bit. Never fear, help is here. Read up on this guide from JAMA pediatrics. Or consult this very thorough and helpful handbook on sexting from Common Sense Media.  

Stay calm. 
“I do try to present it as a manifestation of typical adolescent development — sexual experimenting is something kids have always done, and now we have digital media.” – Dr. Ellen Selkie, an adolescent medicine specialist in the University of Michigan department of pediatrics (when she is counseling parents about sexting.) When you start a conversation with your teen (this goes for almost any topic), pick a time when neither one of you is feeling stressed and you’re not forced to look at each other. Some teens we know suggest striking up a chat in the car, or maybe while doing chores. If the conversation doesn’t go the way you want it to, let it go and try again later. 

Find out more.
What do you know about your child’s relationship with the person they’re sexting? Even if they trust the person they’re sexting, they need to consider all the “what if’s”? Teen brains aren’t fully developed so they don’t always understand cause and effect. Talk about the risks and consequences of sexting. 

Grow from mistakes.
Sexting is frequently related to actual sexual behavior, so use the opportunity to talk about real life sexual actives, healthy relationships, boundaries, and good choices.  

“My main message would be for parents to step back for a minute from the alarmist nature of the word ‘sexting’ and think about developmentally appropriate foolish romantic things teenagers do.” – Dr. Megan Moreno, a pediatrician and vice chair of digital health at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

More info:
This is a great article titled, Teenagers are Sexting – Now What? from the New York Times.

Here is a straight-forward guide for teens “All About Sexting” from Planned Parenthood. “Sexting — or using your phone to send sexual pictures, videos, or texts — might seem like no big deal. But before you hit send, there are some pretty big consequences to consider.”

A few practical talking points about sexting and the dangers of oversharing online from the Child Mind Institute. 

Have you had a conversation with your teen about sexting and survived? Shareyour tales of parenting in the digital age and maybe your tip will make it in to our next newsletter!