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Sexting: The New All-American Sport or Remember Baseball?

It was during the ironically-titled Weiner Scandal, in which Congressman Anthony Weiner was caught sending cell phone pictures of his genitals to a female Congressional aide, in addition to texting surprisingly unexciting sexual comments, that my friend’s son admitted to having done the same.  There were a few differences between these two sexting cases, of course.  More to the point, Weiner is an adult, at least in a chronological sense, while Max*, my friend’s son, is a teenager.

Sexting, or the sending of inappropriate (read: heavily sexual messages or nude photos) over cell phones or the Internet is on the rise with teens today, and, to some point, it isn’t hard to understand.  This generation of teens has been warned about AIDS and STDS since they were practically fetuses. So where’s the harm, they must reason, with sending off a few nude pictures or salacious comments by phone, on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr?

Oh, the harm is plenty, it turns out.  Future employers and future college application committees troll social networking sites to see if, in an applicant’s past, he or she has exhibited the bad judgment to post nude pictures or heavily sexual comments on a post.  It could literally cost your teen an education or even a job down the road, not to mention looking like a classless jerk presently.

So what’s a parent to do about the sexting trend?  

1.  Get a Facebook membership.

Nothing takes the fun out of being a sexual rebel more than your mom hitting the “like” button next to your nude photo.  Or worse yet, making a positive comment.  Remember your own teen years.  There’s no fun in rebellion if the forces you’re rebelling against join your side.

2.  Police your kid’s computer like nobody’s business and don’t be polite about it.

That’s right.  Become the most hated person in America, the person who hoards computer time like the Grinch hoards candy canes.  Sit there while your child is on the computer.  Keep clearing your throat.  Your teen won’t be on the computer for very long if he or she is trying something illicit.  Have you ever tried to act sexy with somebody clearing his or her throat in your ear?

3.  Lower the boom.

If your teen is caught, pardon the expression, red-handed in a sexting situation, sit down with him or her and explain the reality of sexting.  How, for example, if he or she sexts about a younger person, they will be looking at a child pornography charge, a court date, and a possible prison sentence.  About how, on the Internet and in cyber space, nothing is ever permanently “deleted”, no matter how many times you drag it to the tiny picture of the trash can on the computer screen.  Computers are Big Brother, and everything can be traced.  Finally, explain to your teen how much you are worried about them, because your love him or her.

The chances are good that the eye-rolling from your teen will be getting pretty righteous by now.  Which means that it may be time to:

4.  Make the computer inaccessible.

Most computers now have the capability to be locked with a numerical password.  If you don’t know how to do it on your computer, check on ehow.com put in your make of computer and ask how to lock it.  ehow.com is  must-have site for everybody.  It has articles and videos that can explain how to do virtually anything, and it’s free.  If your teen has to do homework and anytime my teen needs the computer and it’s off limits, she must do homework immediately,unlock the computer while she can’t see the password, and sit there while she or he does the homework and the homework only.  Then, after the teen is done, ask her to leave the room and lock it up again.

This is much easier, of course, if the computer is your teen’s.  Just remove it for the time being.  There will be, of course, screaming and cries of injustice from your teen.  Regard them as a reward for a job well done.

 

 

 

Hua, L. L. (2012). Sexting and social media in today’s adolescent: Peer norms, problems, and provider responsibility . The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 28(4), 1,6.

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