Parents in Action: Truth about sexting

With teens spending almost three hours a day on their cell phones, many parents are to wonder: what are they doing on that phone? Most of them are texting, going online and doing the things we’d expect.

But they also may be doing things that could endanger them and be against the law. With the ever-changing landscape of technology, apps and cell phone hardware, how is a parent to keep up with their cell phone-crazed kids?

We hear the term sexting often but what does it really mean?


If you’re a parent of a tween or teen, you’ve no doubt already heard of the term sexting: the act of sending sexually explicit messages, pictures or videos to one or multiple people.

According to a survey published by The National Campaign , an estimated one in five teens has sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves.

So what steps can parents take to prevent sexting? Start by taking advantage of your cell phone carrier. Most of the major cell phone companies offer programs that allow parents to keep a vigilant eye on their child’s phone usage.

For example, Verizon Wireless offers a program called FamilyBase that, among other things, allows parents to track downloads and usage on their kids’ devices, giving insight on who their communicating with, what they’re downloading and many other things.

The program, which only costs $5 a month, gives parents access to a dashboard of activity logs to see a minute-by-minute breakdown of what their kids are doing on their phones and when.

Establish Boundaries, Limitations and Expectations

Regardless of what your teen says you’re the only person who can decide if they’re ready to have a cell phone. Right off the bat, establish that cell phone use has boundaries, expectations and limitations as well as consequences for falling short and rewards for achieving goals.

Lay out a set of guidelines that your child will be expected follow into an agreement or contract for all parties to sign. Make sure to include hours of usage, number of text sent and anything else you might want to limit. If a rule is ever broken, all parties can then refer back to the contract for the appropriate consequence.

Although we live in a society where celebrities releasing a sex tape or explicit photos creates buzz and publicity, it’s important for teens to understand that such photos or videos of them can hinder or even prevent them from getting a good job, going to college, or reaching their goals.

Like many tough parenting topics, appropriate cell phone use is most certainly going to be a continuing conversation between you and your child. Remember, if you’re child comes to you in confidence, listen, help them understand and don’t freak out if they tell you something you’re not expecting.

By Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting, TBParenting.com
 


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