Practical tips for teen sexting

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Vanessa Hudgens, the star of High School Musical, was revealed in the buff when photos from her computer were posted online. Suggestive images of Miley Cyrus hacked from her cell phone were posted online.

These sexually-charged activities are examples of a current trend among teens called sexting.

Sexting is a term that refers to the act of sending sexually explicit content -- photos or messages -- to someone through electronic media, and it's not just a Hollywood phenomenon. According to a recent survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancies and, one in five teens have electronically sent or posted online nude or partially nude photos of themselves. And more than a third of teens surveyed say it is common for photos like these to be shared with others.

Both boys and girls have been caught in the act and while 75 percent of those surveyed who have participated in sexting activities understand that sending revealing photos or even sexually explicit messages can have seriously negative side effects, say they do it anyway.

What's a parent to do? First, don't panic. Not every teen is sexting or exposed to sexting, however, understanding the trend and talking to kids can help keep them from following their impulses. Try these tips to help keep kids from putting their safety and reputation at risk.

Consider peer pressure.

Is your child in a "serious" relationship with another teen? The survey found that more than 50 percent of the girls who "sexted" did so under pressure from boyfriends. Address the pressure and feelings your child might be experiencing in a serious relationship.

Explain consequences.

It only takes a second to make a bad judgment call, but the consequences can last far longer. Once your child has passed along revealing photos, those images can be easily passed farther along to the receiver's entire phone list, posted online or e-mailed to others - potentially posted for years to come. Talk about the far-reaching effects of sexting.

Understand the law.

Sending nude photos of any child under the age of 18 can fall into the category of child pornography. Even teens sending photos of themselves may be breaking the law.

Talk, talk, talk.

As usual, making sure kids understand what sexting is, why it's not appropriate and what consequences may follow is extremely important. And helping kids understand that sending explicit sexual content over the phone is not a way to be intimate or loving. Find great resources on the subject of teens, tech and sex at

Consider blocking applications.

Protect young children from receiving inappropriate photos by eliminating applications on their cell phones. If your teen has a history of risky behavior or has already broken the boundaries you set, consider limiting the photo applications on their phones. Contact your mobile carrier and ask about your options.

Sharon Miller Cindrich is the mother of two, a columnist and the author of E-Parenting: Keeping Up With Your Tech-Savvy Kids (Random House, 2007). Learn more at, or send questions to

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