On average, kids get their first smartphone at 10.3 years, catapulting them into the digital world. Once they’ve reached this rite of passage, much of their social interaction revolves around their phone and other devices.
This may include their first forays into sexuality. One in four teens has engaged in sexting or been sexted by a peer, according to a recent study. Your child can face disastrous consequences if they succumb to this “new normal,” so it’s important you talk to them early on about the dangers of sexting.
If your teen is already sexting, it may be part of a larger problem like sexual addiction. Also take note if they are showing signs of sexual deviance such as sexting someone considerably younger or sexual harassment, like continuing to send unsolicited sexts after being asked to stop.
If sexting is putting your troubled teen at risk, consider putting them in a residential treatment center for troubled teens where they can address their issues in a caring and structured environment.
Here are 5 suggestions to stop your teen from sexting.
1. Let Your Teen Know Their Private Sexts Can Become Public
Ten percent of teens have sent compromising images to a peer, only to have them shared with others.
In 2009, a 13-year-old Florida girl named Hope Witsell sent a topless photo of herself to her boyfriend. The spontaneous move backfired when another girl found the photo and forwarded it to friends, spurring bullying by her peers. After months of harassment, Hope hanged herself. Her tragic death can serve as a cautionary tale for your teen.
2. Talk To Your Teen About The Legal Consequences Of Sexting
Discuss the legal consequences of sending, receiving and forwarding explicit images with your teen. When someone under 18 sends a racy selfie to someone, the image is considered child pornography. If your teen receives a nude from someone who’s underage, it’s likewise considered child pornography.
In 2017, a 14-year-old girl from Minnesota was charged with felony child pornography distribution for sending a nude selfie to another student. It may sound unfair, but knowing the potential legal fallout may discourage your teen from sexting
3. Tell Your Teen The Friend They’re Texting May Be A Child Predator
Take special pains to warn your teen about sexting with someone they’ve only met online.
Thirty percent of tweens and teens say they feel more accepted online than in real life. Fifty-nine percent of teens say they engage with strangers online. Let your child know the boy or girl they’re chatting with could be a child predator posing as a teen.
4. Don’t Assume Taking Your Teen’s Cell Phone Will Stop Sexting
It’s possible your teen is using their cell phone for sexting, something you may detect by checking their messages and photos. They may, however, be using the chat functions of their favorite game, social media platform or apps.
Talk openly with your teen about their digital habits, familiarizing yourself with their favorite sites and apps. Take note if they act secretive, hiding the screen or clicking out of a window when you approach. We recommend stationing your teen’s computer in a public throughway of your household.
5. If Your Teen Is Sexting, They Are More Likely To Engage in Offline Sexual Relationships
Teens who sext are more likely to engage in sexual relationships, so your conversation about sexting should include the consequences of real-life sexual activity like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
If your teen persists in sexting, it may stem from larger challenges like:
- Mental illness
- Depression and anxiety
- Substance abuse
Don’t Overreact If Your Child Is Sexting
What should you do if you discover your teen has been sexting? To losely paraphrase the old British phrase, keep calm and parent on.
Acting horrified or heaping guilt on your teen will likely be detrimental, because sexual curiosity is a normal part of growing up. Instead, instruct your teen to desist from sexting and have them delete any explicit photos from their cell phone.
Your troubled adolescent may benefit from a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens, where they can learn the coping skills needed to successfully transition to adulthood.