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Talking sexting with your teen in light of a political scandal

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

What would Grandma say?

When you first learned about “sexting,” you had a talk with you tween and/or teen, right? RIGHT? You talked about good choices and appropriate behaviors, right? RIGHT? Even though you thought it was a “goes without saying topic,“ you had the conversation. And you thought you were done with that conversation. Check it off the list? Not so fast.

teen-girl-sexting

Recent political scandals have brought the issue of "sexting" back to the forefront. As obvious as it is to you that one should not engage in that kind of risky behavior, and even if you had the talk with your child about it, it's time to talk again. Because that politician likely knew he shouldn't be doing what he was doing, and was sure he wouldn't get caught. Ahem.

The lure of technology

No doubt about it, technology is a lure. It's instant gratification for information, connection and, well, so much more. There's a reason adult-themed content takes up so much of the Internet content. But it's also one of the reasons we put limits on technology for our kids -- to help them learn to balance the lure of the content on those screens with real life and real choices and consequences. It's why we need to keep talking to them about the choices that technology makes available. Beyond the simple right and wrong of the behavior, technology plays a role.

No one thinks they will get caught

When it comes to sexting and other risky technology-based actions, no one thinks they will get caught. That politician certainly didn't. He thought he had it all under control. To be honest, he did for a long time. But one slip up with technology -- the kind of slip up that is oh-so-easy for anyone -- and it was totally out of his control. That same thing can and does happen to teens engaging in risky behaviors. Teens just like yours.

Once it's out there, it's out there

Just as with email, content put on Facebook and other social media sites, instant messaging and websites, once something is out there, it's out there. Sites are backed up, content is stored in memory and internet surfing is cached. It's like a blackboard at the front of a classroom. It's there for all to see. Only put it out there if you really want it out there. Grandma could potentially see it. Really. If your teen doesn't want grandma to know what he's doing with his girlfriend, he shouldn't put it in a text message on his phone or in a picture message. And if he's sure he won't get caught? See above.

Keep talking

So you, as a parent, have to keep talking. Talk again and again and again about issues like sexting and appropriate online behavior. Your teen likely will groan and moan and say, "Mom! We already talked about this! I know." And even then keep talking. Because that politician thought he wouldn't get caught, either.

That said, you don't need to embarrass your child unnecessarily to have this repeat conversation. Look for a quiet time when you are alone -- and your child is your captive audience. Time in the car is often a good time, or in the course of working on a project or chores at home. Keep the conversation clear, to the point and brief. You can also take the time to reassure your child that even if he or she did make a less than stellar choice in terms of sexting, you'd still love them, and you're pretty sure no one has died of embarrassment yet.

These are challenging conversations to be sure. But have them. They are topics that definitely do not "go without saying."

More on kids and sexting

Talking to teens about sexting
Teen sexting: What parents can do
Teaching teens about cell phone safety


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