The Devastating Aftermath of Sexting

What do you do if your teen is caught sexting?

Posted Apr 30, 2011

What do you do when...

1. ...your teen makes an impulsive decision? Be upset but don't freak out. Cool down, get your thoughts together and go and have a serious discussion with your teen about your disappointment in her decision. Staying calm and rational is the best way to speak with your teen. Let your teen know that you still love her.  Bad decisions are a part of life and valuable lessons can be learned from real life consequences.

2. ...pictures get spread to others?  First, if you are aware of the social networking sites the photos have been posted on, contact the site operator immediately and report abuse. If the pictures are being shared in school or interfering with the school environment, notify school authorities and let them know what's happening. If you are afraid the pictures have gone viral and want to report the person who initiated spreading the pictures, contact your local law enforcement agency. It is important to note, there are laws in many states against sexting. These can apply to those who posted a picture of a minor (meaning the teen that sent the picture first) and to those who are guilty of distributing it to others. If your teen is involved, know the laws in your state.  

3. ...sexting leads to bullying and on-line harassment? Sometimes when pictures get in the hands of teens, especially angry teens, things can get nasty. If your teen starts to receive vicious emails, texts, postings, calls, etc., act promptly. Time is of the essence and the teen that's engaging in this type of cyber bullying needs to know that you will not tolerate it. Tell your teen not to respond to any harassing posts. Contact all site operators immediately and report abuse. Block all messages, phone calls, texts, etc., from the perpetrators. Make copies of all texts, postings and discussions in chat rooms. This will be your trail of evidence. Notify and report this to all appropriate school personnel (especially if the perpetrators attend the same school as your teen) and even law enforcement if necessary. Change your teen's phone number if the harassment is occurring via cell or text. Take down all social networking sites. Create new profiles using privacy settings and accepting only close friends. Also, during this time, have your teen refrain from chat room discussions and sites like Formspring.

4. ...your teen needs more help than you can provide? Have an open dialogue with your teen. Encourage him or her to share what's going on with you. If your teen starts to exhibit abnormal behavior or if you notice a change in mood, hygiene, sleep and eating patterns, seek professional help immediately. These could be signs of depression.  To learn more about teen depression, WebMD offers a great site for parents.  If you have medical insurance, be sure to check with your carrier for a list of approved providers in your network. There are also directories that will assist you in locating a counselor in your area.  Your teen's school counselor should also be able to provide you with some resources.

5. ...your teen needs a new beginning? I am not an advocate of running away from any situation, but there are circumstances when your teen may need a fresh start.  When bullying spills into the school and you've done everything in your power to stop it, you may need to look into a new environment for your teen.  Changing schools may give your teen a chance to start over.  Sure, if it's in the same county, teens may know each other from different schools, but it's not the same as being in a school where everyone knows your business.

Unfortunately, sexting is a very real part of the teen culture. As with any decision, some teens who decide to do this will get caught, and some won't. If your teen chooses to sext, it doesn't mean you're a bad parent. Some really awesome teens have made some really bad mistakes.  Think back to your adolescent years, did you ever do something that you'd never dream of doing today? If you answered "No", then congratulations, you're in the minority.

Sexting can have negative psychological effects on those involved.  One of life's basic lessons is to learn from our mistakes. If your teen has been caught in the act of sexting, ensure that his/her psychological needs are being met and show your support every step of the way. As parents, educators, community leaders and authorities, it is important that we do everything in our power to monitor, educate and protect our teens both on-line and off.

Resources:
Here are some great sites for parents and teens regarding on-line safety:

http://stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/index.html

http://wiredsafety.org/

http://www.safeteens.com/


Not sure what your teen is doing on-line? You may want to check out some Filtering and Monitoring Software.

http://www.stopteensexting.com/

http://www.filterguide.com/ratings.htm