How do I talk to my teens about sexting?

We'd all like to simply say, "Just don't do it." But for many teens, their cell phones are never more than an arm's length away, and, like it or not, sexual experimentation is a part of growing up. The combination could lead to risky decisions in a world where anything digitized can become public.

Although experts differ on statistics, a 2009 study conducted by Pew Internet & American Life Project confirms sexting is a teen reality that's here to stay. So how do you address it with your teens? Download our handbook for ideas on discussing the issue with kids. Also:

  • Don't wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child's friend before you talk about the consequences of sexting. Sure, talking about sex or dating with teens can be uncomfortable, but it's better to have the talk before something happens.
  • Remind your kids that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved -- and they will lose control of it. Ask teens how they would feel if their teachers, parents, or the entire school saw the picture.
  • Talk about pressures to send revealing photos. Let teens know that you understand how they can be pushed or dared into sending something. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation can be hundreds of times worse.
  • Teach your children that the buck stops with them. If someone sends them a sexy photo, they should delete it immediately. It's better to be part of the solution than the problem. Besides, if they do send it on, there could be legal implications. 
  • Check out ThatsNotCool.com. It's a teen-friendly website that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands. It's also a great resource for parents who are uncomfortable dealing directly with this issue.
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Comments

Adult written by Manish A.

m8 I mean who would want to send naked pictures of themselves to get more naked pictures. That's what I call a paradox.
Teen, 13 years old written by MusicalTeenager

My school had a convocation about sexting. I had somebody want to send me nudes. We were both safe, but I just want you to know that sexting isn't the greatest.
Teen, 13 years old written by ariakelly

Honestly, it's just common sense not to take pictures of *points downwards* and send them to other people. I mean, once a message is sent, it's sent. If you unsend it from something like the Instagram DMs people will still be able to see it. There are so many back doors to social media sites. All of the texts you send are saved. So if any one wanted to, they can find your conversation. If the person you sent sexts to is arrested for something like drugs, the police is capable of going through all of your messages, because to them, you could be a suspect or a dealer.