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Teens and Sexting: How to Take Back Control of Technology

Posted by Barbara Greenberg, PhD

According to researchers at the Education Development Center in Newton, Massachusetts, 13% of teens involved in sexting reported a suicide attempt during the time interval during which the sexting occurred. I agree with lead researcher Shari Kessel Schneider that association does not imply causation. Nonetheless, whenever there is a link between teens’ behavior and emotional distress, parents should be more than just a little concerned. “Teens will be teens” just doesn’t apply.

In case you are not convinced, consider that more teens are sexting than parents are probably aware. Parents — take your collective heads out of the sand. Of the teens surveyed in this study, 10% of the males and 11% of the females admitted to sending one of these images in the past year.  These teens were not coerced into making these confessions, nor did they get a prize for honesty. (And, we know that this is probably under-reporting, as is typical of self-report.)

This should be a call to action of all parents of teens to take back control of technology. Here are some things you can start doing today:

  1. Set rules around the use of cell phones.
  2. Monitor your teens use of technology — not constantly, but on a random basis. This is sort of like the technological equivalent of a random drug test.
  3. Have your teens charge their cell phones outside of their bedroom at night.
  4. Teach your teens about the dangers associated with sexting, including the speed at which messages can be sent to those they weren’t intended for.
  5. Encourage your teens NOT to respond to any sext messages that they receive.

Good luck. This won’t be easy — but nothing important ever is, right?

About Barbara Greenberg, PhD

Barbara is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language-A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual with Jennifer Powell-Lunder PsyD and the co-creator of the website http://www.talkingteenage.com.

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