According to recent national surveys, approximately one out of five teenagers has sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves, and two out of five have sent or posted sexually suggestive messages.
Nearly half of all teenagers claim to have received such messages. Unfortunately, most parents do not know this activity is occurring, and worse yet, they do not know how to manage a sexting incident after the fact.
Today, uKnow.com, the leading provider of Parental Intelligence Systems including uKnowKids, is providing parents five tips to help prevent or manage a sexting incident. According to Tim Woda, an Internet and child safety expert and co-founder of uKnow.com: "Sexting does not only affect the reputation of the person involved, it also comes with legal ramifications.
In fact, the same minor that sends photos of himself can become both a victim and a perpetrator of child pornography laws. Forwarding such messages to friends or mobile contacts can also come with serious ramifications.
There is only a limited number of things a parent can control after a sexting incident, so the best time to engage in this conversation is before you allow them to have a mobile phone or social networking account. When it comes to sexting, being proactive is being safe."
Here are some important tips to help parents prevent and deal with sexting issues:
- Consequences: Talk about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, including yourself. You could get expelled, humiliated by your peers, lose educational opportunities or possibly face serious legal consequences.
- Control: Once an image leaves your phone or computer, you have lost control of it. Phones get lost, computers get stolen, and social networking accounts get hacked. Never take an image of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone – your family, friends, and teachers – to see.
- Don't forward: You may find someone else's photo funny; however, if you forward a sexual picture of someone underage, you are as responsible for this image as the original sender. You could face child pornography charges, go to jail, or have to register as a sex offender.
- Report: Nude photos should be reported immediately to the parents/guardians of the originator, as well as school counselors, so that they can manage the situation.
- Prevent it: As parents, we know that spying does not equal trust. Obviously, going behind your kid’s back to see what they are doing does not help you build a trusting relationship with your child. Stealing a phone at night when your child is asleep, or checking their social media accounts is not the only way to understand what they are doing.
There is a difference between spying and being held accountable. A child who is accountable knows they are being monitored, which is why parents of tweens should leverage a parental monitoring service from the minute their child gets a social network account or mobile phone. If it's part of the initial set up, it is easier for kids to accept for the long run.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!