Sexting - Ten Tips to Prevent the Abuse

"Sexting" is the term for sending or receiving pictures of nude of partially nude teenagers through the text function on cell phones. Sexting is so easily accomplished, literally thousands of them are exchanged everyday between teens and even pre-teens. This behavior is not only illegal, it can lead to degradation and embarrassment. This can spiral into depression, anxiety disorders and other problems with participating teens. It also leaves the door wide open to predators.

To help combat sexting, here a ten tips to keep it from happening in the home.

Tip 1. Help teens build a positive self-esteem and good body image. If a teenager feels positive about her body, she is less likely to seek approval from others. This seeking approval may be a root of some teen's sexting behavior.

Tip 2. Help teens set boundaries. Teenagers need to understand that their body is a sacred space and no one deserves to view it, much less touch it, without an intimate relationship established. And, then, the only appropriate pictures are those which do not have a sexual content.

Tip 3. Have access to children's technology. Although some will argue against the idea, parents are ultimately responsible for their teenager's behavior. Parents should be able to access any text message or image at any time on a child's cell phone. No passwords or locks should be allowed between a parent and a child's technology. Of course, parents need to respect privacy. But never put privacy over safety.

Tip 4. Parents need to be up to date on technology. The abilities of communication technologies has advanced at a breakneck speed. Parents need to be sure to understand what can and cannot be done with the technology in the home. Especially portable technology like laptops and cellphones, which are often employed to text or instant message (IM).

Tip 5. Talk about it. If parents have not explained what sexting is children will get the information elsewhere. Parents may find it uncomfortable to breach the topic, but by doing so and being honest about concerns, teenagers have the opportunity to ask questions.

Tip 6. Parents should be clear about consequences of sexting with teenagers. Of the things which are absolutely not tolerated, sexting should be high on the list. Parents need to express the consequences of the behavior and make certain children understand what happens should sexting occur.

Tip 7. Encourage your teen to use the phone. It may be a strange thing, but by encouraging teens to call each other instead of texting or IM. Phone calls are one of the safer methods of saying good night.

Tip 8. Check in cell phones at bedtime. Parents should have teenagers turn in the phone to them during times when texting isn't allowed. These include bedtime, homework and events which require peace and quiet.

Tip 9. Pray about it with the teenager. By bringing the concern to the Lord with a teenager, it reminds teenagers of God's omnipotence and love. There is no need to have threats in the prayer, instead ask for wisdom for the teenager and the parents and guidance when reaching out with the technology.

Tip 10. Keep a cellphone as a privilege and not a right. Although a handy way to keep up with older teens, younger teens have very little need for a cell phone. Of course, safety, again needs to be paramount and a cell phone can make everyone's life easier. However, it needs to remain a privilege and something to be earned by positive behavior.

Sexting may be on the rise, but for Christian living families it holds no place. By being clear and honest with teenagers, limits and boundaries are set for behavior. Again, prayer should be a wonderful time to help teenagers seek wisdom and see all communication they do should be done as if in person.

Reece W. Manley, DD, M.Ed., MPM, CSTF-M


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