Sexual Text

Is your teen sending sexual text messages? Just when you thought you couldn't possibly worry about one more thing, along comes teen "sexting"-- sending provocative material such as nude pictures of yourself via text messages. Is your child already doing it? And what can you do about it?

Teen Girl Texting

Maybe you heard the news hoopla over sexting in the last few weeks. And maybe you listened, nodded, and remarked to your spouse that the world is getting crazier every day. Maybe you fleetingly wondered if your own teen could be involved, but you probably dismissed the thought pretty quickly. I mean, you'd know if something like that was going on, wouldn't you?


According to Dr. Susan Lipkins, a New York psychologist and expert in sexual bullying, 65% of teens aged 13-19 are sexting, and enjoying it. And if that doesn't make you cringe already, Dr. Lipkins also believes that even more sexting is going on in the 12-year-old set. In fact, 6% of those polled said they started sexting at just 9 years old.


Is your teen involved?

If your teen has a cell phone, she's undoubtedly texting. And if she's texting, she may well be sexting. And you'd probably never know it, as savvy as you think you might be. Remember, our kids don't remember life before the Internet. They were born with cell phones in their hands and IM handles on their birth certificates. They live and breathe this stuff, and they are good at hiding their tracks.


The reality is that the numbers are simply not on your side. And no matter how convinced you are that your child could never do something like that, you have to allow for the possibility that you're wrong. Which means you have to have a difficult conversation with your teen. The one that starts with, "Have you ever sent or received naked pictures?"


Your child will undoubtedly assert that he has not, that he is insulted at the mere suggestion, that you are insane, and also totally uncool. Are you good at knowing when your child is lying? Use your skills, your gut, and any other tools in your arsenal.


What now?

So what are you supposed to do, whether you think your teen is sexting already or whether you're worried he might start in the future? Believe it or not, you're not completely powerless. So what can you do?

1.    Talk to your teen. A scary thought for many of us, but one of those unavoidable responsibilities of parenting. Talk to them about the possible long-term consequences of getting involved in sexting. Like the fact that nude images of kids under age 18 are child pornography, which is illegal. Talk about the short-term consequences, like the whole school getting ahold of a "private" photo shared with a former boy or girlfriend. Talk about self esteem and self respect.
2.    Set rules. Do you let your kids drive drunk? Do you let them ride in the car with no seat belts? So why give them something as dangerous as a cell phone and not establish rules? Start random checks of the phone (yes, you'll need to learn how to use it), and go through everything on it regularly.

3.    Take away the cell phone. Drastic, yes, but sometimes necessary, when nothing else is working. If you truly don't trust your child, why would you trust him with a tool he can use to bully others? And to those who argue that their kids "need" cell phones -- oh, come on now. Really? Fine. Then get them the most basic model possible, with no texting capabilities.
Parenting a teenager in today's world is not an easy task. But SheKnows is here with you, every step of the way. Talk to other parents in our forums, and let us know how your "sext" talk goes with your teen right here in the comments.

Read more on parenting teens:


Recommended for you


Comments on "Teen sexting - What parents can do"

SM October 22, 2013 | 5:03 AM

How do you deal with your stepchild when you catch him at 12 trying to video tape us (his father and I) in our room, naked at the time...the door was slightly ajar whilst I was getting dressed. father seems to think its age appropriate - I don't, how many times has he done it before...I just happened to see a black movement right behind the door which was the cellphone...

Just a Step Dad, NC August 26, 2013 | 11:39 AM

I'm a concerned step father. My wife is in denial about our daughter. I know she is and told her. Other than get kicked out again for "making HER..again i say HER daughter look bad. Also was told I'm "just a step Dad" What do I do?

SeriouslyConcernedParrent August 02, 2013 | 9:44 AM

Really??? When I read comments like it is not that bad or it’s their decision to throw away their life, you are saying that a parent that loves there kids and wants nothing but the best for them to should just over look things that we know are unhealthy for them socially and mentally. Flirting is normal for young people and is healthy but there is a line legally as well as morally that is slipping further and further away. If you are a parent I urge you to get into the middle of your teens life, I don’t care how intrusive it may seem to them, it will speak to how much you care for them and have an interest in and I quote “Not throwing their Life away!”

JB June 06, 2013 | 6:40 AM

My story is identical to "Ryans" only my son, also 14, doesn't have his own phone, instead he uses mine but only in the car to "play games" on long rides. I too caught him 3 times asking young strangers about or requesting pics. If I were the Mom of a young teen girl I would be extremely concerned because this isn't an issue of innocent ual discovery, it is an affront to respect and to the quality of our culture with regards to human relations. It saddens me that my son has fallen into this trend but it also saddens me that the girls are responding to these absurd, disrespectful requests. It is just too easy for kids to be insidious when they are home safe in their rooms without ever experiencing the human consequences of their actions. Shame is forgone with ting and when kids are shameless, there is no responsibility to themselves or each other. My son will not have a phone until he can pay for it himself. We need to stop giving to our children but I'll save that stool for another entry...

Queen Bee March 22, 2013 | 11:41 AM

Nate--Clearly you are one that needs to "Grow Up". I talk to teens daily that have been negatively affected by this trend. Either their choice or harrassed by others. A phone is not a right it is a tool. Yes, it part of our culture and definately theirs, but they are not capable (not fully developed reason centers in the brain) of understanding what they are doing. Let's all start to PAY ATTENTION>

nate January 29, 2013 | 6:40 AM

HEY GROW UP. UR KID ARENT DOING ACID. THERE NOT In gang voilance rapes murders or robberys the safest is by ur self . ur kids are at home in the room and its stiill not enough?.. get over it. and be happy ur kids arent ------- strangers or takin ppls lives or makin urs worse. when i grew up i was a bad --- but kids today r just products of society. get over it. ur in control. aint that enough?

Michael November 30, 2012 | 5:50 PM

Kids don't need cell phones. Take them away now!

Colin June 21, 2012 | 7:43 AM

Le G is right. You can turn off picture/video messaging if you catch them. Problem solved. I done see anything wrong with flirty messaging and as long as nothing explicit is being sent what's the problem? Of course you are not going to like your 16 year old flirting with some guy you hardly even know (though I agree pictures should be off limits) but think about it. In a few years you will be sending your teen off to college where you know he will be ually involved with some of the girls there.

Ryan May 07, 2012 | 12:14 PM

My son just turned 14 and has been caught ting for the third and final time. The first two times he was briefly grounded from his phone and we spoke to him about the social and possible legal ramifications of his actions. Unfortunately many children his age are just too immature to use a cell phone responsibly and my son happens to be one of them. I will tell you though, from the messages I've intercepted on his phone this is a WIDE spread problem. There are numerous girls that are participating in this with him and the only way I've caught him is by taking his phone from him at random unexpected times in order to review his messages. If you don’t do this as a parent the child will simply delete all of his or her messages to protect against parents learning of the truth. Believe me, your child is probably not behaving as well as you think they are, and its our responsibility as parents to ensure that they arent putting themselves or others a risk with they're poor choices. My straight A student is a ter. How about yours?

shelby January 17, 2012 | 7:55 AM

let kids be kids already

G. J. January 09, 2012 | 3:51 PM

It is dangerous! Some kids try ting outside their local people they don't even know. My child is not wise enough or experienced enough to know what is lurking in the shadows. I will check my child's phone, computer, and anything else to protect them. As long as my kids live at home, they know they are subject to this. If you want to call it infringement, go ahead. Its actually good old fashioned parenting! My child is not socially or psychologically capable of making proper judgment calls with these newly discovered hormones they cannot even control. Give it a few years, and they will have it together, but not at 12, 13, & 14. The brain is not even fully developed until about age 21 or 22. Come on people!

Rachael October 07, 2011 | 4:54 AM

This is some advice that I came across when I was worried about my child ting: Don’t wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child’s friend before you talk about the consequences of ting. Sure, talking about 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, because that happens all the time. 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 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, they're distributing pornography -- and that’s against the law. If you are concerned about your child ting, I used an app called Mobileminder to keep an eye on what my son was texting. With Mobileminder I was able to check his text messages, pictures, call logs, etc. from my computer. If you are concerned about your own child I would highly recommend using Mobileminder. The website is www.mobileminder

Lisa January 31, 2011 | 9:33 PM

If kids are caught ting to another minor, they can be charged with ual Harassment. There are horror stories of kids sending pics or talking dirty and then it gets forwarded on to others. Now we are talking about Distribution of Child Pornography. Careful out there! You never know when someone's going to turn the tables on you next time they get mad.

Arealparent June 20, 2010 | 8:02 AM

You could always just turn the internet part of the phone off like we did with our child so she can't do this. she can still text, but we look at that too. My childs clothes are paid by me. Her allowance is paid by me. Every place she goes, every thing she buys.Me. I wish she would tell me I don't have the right to snoop or go through her stuff. She doesn't have anything that I didn't pay for. She is my child and I am the parent.

Megan October 14, 2009 | 4:54 PM

dude...ALL of that is stupid. their life if they want to throw it away by doing something like that then its their decision. i couldnt live with my parents randomly checking my phone. its called trust people. try it sometime.

dot October 06, 2009 | 1:41 AM

Geez you would think there would be alot of messaging going on here! :((( My 16 year old son has been ting a girl who's mother thinks it is all just flirting...not helping!

Le G October 01, 2009 | 1:39 PM

If all else fails, get a phone w/o text/photo capabilities.

+ Add Comment

(required - not published)