5 ways to reduce your teen’s chances of sexting
Kids and smartphones can be a dangerous combination, as some parents in the Chicago suburbs were reminded when news broke that police were investigating an incident involving middle school students sexting one another.
More than one in five seventh-graders participated in sexting, according to a recent study in Pediatrics. Sexting is the sending of a text message with pictures of children or teens that are inappropriate, naked or engaged in sex acts.
“Kids are on the phones all the time. Instead of talking to each other face to face, they’re texting and using social media,” says Sarah Katula, advanced practice nurse at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “They are almost exploring their sexuality through sexting,” she says.
Most adolescents do not understand the implications of sending or receiving such illicit material through their phones. In some cases, it can constitute a crime.
“Adolescents live in the moment,” Katula says. “They do not understand that sexting could be considered porn. It could be a misdemeanor, or even a felony, and they could end up in the court system.”
Kids also do not realize that even though they send a photo to one person, it can end up in the hands of many others. Whether it is sent through a text, Snapchat or other app, once a picture is sent, they are no longer in control of who can see the photo.
Parents’ influence over their children is being trumped by social connectivity in today’s technology-driven age. However, there are some things that parents can do to help their kids use cell phones in a safe way.
- Make a contract. Setup a contract with your adolescent regarding their phone and its usage. Outline clear expectations of how the phone should be used and the consequences for not abiding by those rules.
- Devise clear rules that both parents uphold. Having clear rules is important, as is maintaining a united front. Make sure you and your significant other agree to all the rules regarding the phone usage and how to enforce them.
- No phone at night. Taking the phone at night to charge it or simply keeping it out of your adolescents’ hands can reduce opportunities to use the phone inappropriately.
- Get rid of the password. Do not allow the use of a pass code or password on the phone.
- Above all, communicate. Have open conversations with your adolescent about what’s happening in his or her life.
Technology is supposed to make communication easier, but parents today often find that it creates an additional set of problems. Parents must initiate honest conversations with their children to teach them how to use technology in a responsible manner.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.