Still have questions?

Join Common Sense Media Plus for timely advice from a community of parents like you.

Join now

Back to topic overview

Sex, Gender, and Body Image

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.