Wondering how to talk to your kids about sexting? Well, frankly, I hope you will wait a few years to give your them a cell phone! Waiting is good. It builds discipline. My daughters were 13 when they got theirs. I kind of wish I'd waited until they were 16 like I did with my son. You may have a good reason for your daughter to get one sooner.
Either way, sexting is a good thing for you to have on your radar. If you aren't quite sure what sexting is, let me enlighten you! Sexting can include anything ranging from mildly sexual text messages to nude photos sent to a cell phone. It's becoming all too common for teens, and is not altogether absent from the tween demographic. One study found that girls as young as 10 have received sext messages and girls as young as 12 have sent them.
In the past year, I was devastated to find that two of my teen mentees were caught up in the nasty world of sexting. One of them, a sweet home-schooled, Christian girl, actually sent a topless photo of herself to a guy. The other, a pastor's daughter, was graphically propositioned for sex through a text message that ended with, "I know your dad is a pastor, but this is none of his business." As a mom, that should make your blood boil! It does mine.
If you have a tween, please don't be naive to this topic! The stats are alarming - 45% of teens say they have sent or received a sexual text message. One in five admits to sending or receiving nude photos. This is common! (I loathe to use that word for something so vile.) Let me say it again - don't be naive. My friend Vicki Courtney noted on her blog recently that 50% of parents whose teens are sexually active believe they are not!
How can you know if your tween or teen is involved in something they shouldn't be... particularly sexting? Talk to them! Ask them! Let them know of the dangers, including the fact that sending or receiving a nude photo of someone who is under 16 is considered a crime of child pornography. There are stiff penalties for this, including jail time (though this is very unlikely for younger teens and tweens). Often, just asking questions will help your child feel comfortable to open up with you about what they are feeling pressured to do. If they don't open up to you, or you become suspicious because of an odd reaction, just ask them to let you check the history on their cell phone. You can look together.
What happens if you find that your child is sexting? I'd be radically protective of them. Contact your cell-phone service provider and change their service to exclude the texting feature. If they themselves have been sending "sext" messages, let me suggest something very loving - take their phone away! Let them re-earn your trust and get the phone back when they have done so. Seem extreme? Consider this: How meaningful and helpful to good human communication is a text message? I mean, really! (I do know this: It's very bad for your child's grammar). Let them invite friends over and communicate the old-fashioned way... face to face!
What cell phone boundaries do you have for your children?
Looking for more ways to fill your tween or teen with Truth? Check out our Livestream Bible Studies! Taught by best-selling author Dannah Gresh and a team of co-teachers, each 6-week study equips you to dive into God's Word with your daughter to fight the lies the world is telling her, and replace each lie with God's Truth! You can’t change the world, but you can prepare her for it!