Busy Mom

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teens and sexting

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and LG Text Ed

You might as well accept that texting is a part of life, especially if you have teens. If you don't have teens yet, and you don't text, it's time to start, because it's how teens communicate, and I promise, you're not going to want to miss out.

For the most part, texting really doesn't bother me, it's simply a communication tool, not the downfall of society.

But, like many things, you have to teach your kids how and when to use it. When I was growing up, we were attached to the phone night and day, just talking to each other about nothing, and our parents had to teach us that other people might want to use the phone, and it was time to hang up.

And, like many things, texting can be abused.

It seems like everywhere you turn in the media, someone is "sexting" someone else.

But, guess what? It's not just limited to celebrities and "other people", it could happen at your house.

And, no, I don't believe that potential for abuse shouldn't cause you to decide that kids shouldn't have phones. Like I tell my teens (I have two), their phones are not for their convenience, their phones are for MY convenience, and that kind of sweeping decision would impact me.

So, what do you do? How do you keep kids from abusing the privilege of a cell phone by sexting?

You can't.

What you CAN do is teach them about their bodies, and sex, because the issue is more than just about having a phone and sending inappropriate messages or photos, it's about knowledge and respect. Remember, the phone is simply a tool.

In our house, my kids know that I can, and will, look at their phones at any time, and it may be without their knowledge. Now, I try not to abuse it, but I do look at their phones on a regular basis.

It's imperative to learn to use, and actually use, the same technology your teens do. I feel strongly that if you don't know how to use it, then they shouldn't have access to it.

Regarding cell phones specifically, you have to know how to use your kids' phones (don't forget about other wireless devices, too) if you want to know what they're doing on there.

When my kids were younger, they assumed I could read their text messages through the cell phone billing, and, while I didn't say that was true, I admit I did nothing to correct that misperception, and it worked for a while.

Now that they know better, I do spend some time examining their Inboxes, Sent Folder, Trash and other folders on their phones (they hide saved messages and photos in inconspicuously named folders) to get a feel for what's going on and if things are appropriate.

If someone's Inbox or Sent folders are regularly empty, then my Suspicion-o-meter is set off, and we have a little talk.

None of this is foolproof. I know, because the sexting thing happened here with one of my kids.

The actual message was fairly mild as far as these things go, but it launched quite a few discussions:

- Kids never consider that the recipient of an inappropriate message would forward or show it to other people because it's often sent to someone they "looooove..." and he/she would "never" do that. Um, yeah. Yeah, they would.

- They don't consider how it affects the rest of the family if the message were to get out. Siblings have to go to school and hear about it, and in our case, a parent is a teacher at the school.

- I really emphasize to my kids that sexting can be sexual harassment (doesn't matter if you are a guy or a girl) and that sexual harassment is ILLEGAL

- They also don't realize that they have potentially sent someone pornography and that both the subject and recipient are minors. Also ILLEGAL

- Especially with boys, I drill it into their heads that forwarding something inappropriate that they receive is distributing porn. Once again: ILLEGAL

- Most of all, though, it may not be about the phone, it's about self-respect, and someone who participates in sexting needs to learn they are better than that.

Though I've found the vast majority of my teens' phone habits quite routine, never say "never" about teens and sexting, because you just never know. Do your best to talk about it before it occurs, stay vigilant(not the same as harassing or spying) and be prepared to discuss it should it happen at your house.

Each comment left on this post benefits DoSomething.org with a $0.50 donation!

Visit LG Text Ed , where Dr. Rosalind Wiseman explains the dangers and consequences of this new form of flirting. You can also watch Emmy award winning actress Jane Lynch share a lesson on the sensitive stuff kids are sending around without thinking about the consequences.   


  • I dread when my son is old enough for a phone.

    By Blogger Melinda, At 12:37 PM, October 28, 2010  

  • I don't think kids NEED phones. Our society is becoming too "connected", and it is making it difficult for kids to learn to wait for anything. They can't wait until they get to a phone to talk to their friends? They need to talk to they SO frequently that they have to carry a phone all the time? I think if kids have phones at all they should be used strictly for communication with parents.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 8:23 AM, November 21, 2010  

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