Digital Parenting--The Perils of "Sexting"

sexting, cell phone

We know we have been blogging a lot about sexting lately, but it is a serious issue that we want all parents to be informed about. Here we discuss the perils associated with the sharing of nude or semi-nude photos, and tips to stop your child from making a big mistake from what they think is a seemingly innocuous action. 

When it comes to digital parenting, then, is that this new and exciting technology is often difficult to keep up with.  For example, what can we do about sexually explicit text messages, or "sexting?"  How do we keep our kids safe?

First off, know the technology.  It seems like kids will always know more about technology than their parents, but in this case the parents really need to do their homework.  Know what safeguards are available for the child's phone, including the ability to turn off or block texting and sending pictures.

Next, it is vital to keep the lines of communication open.  Talking to our kids is always good, but in this case, it's necessary.

  • Set up rules about what sort of information and pictures are appropriate. 

  • Let them know that they should never take a picture that they wouldn't want everyone in the world to see--their boyfriend or girlfriend, their siblings, their grandma, everyone.  Remember that once you hit "send," you have no control of where the text will end up.

  • Make sure they understand that, if they ever receive an explicit text or image, they can come to you to report it.

  • Review with your child the rules his/her school has regarding cell phones, cyberbullying and sexting.

When you talk to your child, it's important that they understand the consequences.  And it's not enough to just say "Bad things can happen."  As a kid, they need to know just how bad it can get.

  • Being kicked off their sports teams or out of academic clubs

  • Intense humiliation

  • The distinct possibility of criminal charges.  And these consequences won't expire when they are 18, but could dog them for the rest of their lives as they are forced to register as a sex offender.

This last point is vital.  Sex offender registries don't make distinctions between the truly vile and those who would say "I was just sending a pic of myself to my boyfriend of the time."  All others will see is "Registered Sex Offender" and they will react accordingly.

"Oh, well, I just forwarded this one text this dude sent me," is no defense either.  Forwarding an image makes them as responsible for it as the original sender!

As we well may remember, adolescence is filled with "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."  But in this case, it's important for our kids to know that sexting is never a good idea.

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We are pleased to announce that Bark will be taking over where we leave off. The uKnowKids mission to protect digital kids will live on with Bark. Our team will be working closely with Bark’s team in the future, so that we can continue making the digital world a safer, better place for kids and their families. While we are disappointed we could not complete this mission independently, we are also pleased to hand the uKnowKids baton to Bark.
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