Teens, Sex and the Internet: “They’re Doing What?”

Posted February 1, 2008 by

Photo of elisabeth

Recently, some more teen-agers took explicit photos of themselves—one girl was topless, and two teens, a boy and a girl, were engaged in a sexual act—and sent them, via cell phone, “to a few friends,” a practice known as “porn swapping.” Now the police have been called and are going to prosecute anyone at the kids’ high school found with either of the photos stored in their cell phones. You see, the kids who did it are underage, which means—you guessed it— those images now constitute child pornography. Of course, the police didn’t get there before the pictures went viral. Both have been sent from phone to phone, and most probably have found their way onto the Internet by now.

I have to say, as a parent, I find a lot of what’s going on with teen-agers to be really scary. I’ve always thought I would be capable of dealing with the stuff my son will undoubtedly throw at me when he hits his teen years, but now I’m not so sure. When I was in high school, I’ll admit, I got in trouble on occasion for going to a party or staying out past curfew once in awhile. These are things that kids still get in trouble for, and rightly so, but now, they also have Myspace pages where some post naked photos of themselves, and casually talk about “Friends with Benefits.” It’s a whole new world out there, and parents are scrambling to keep up.

This underscores the point that we parents need to sit down with our kids and tell them what the dangers are of sending photos like these or other private information about themselves out into cyberspace. Online predators, identity thieves and future employers are all out there, ready to click on that photo, profile or “harmless” remark. (That’s right, recruiters and employers are making it part of the interview process to go on Myspace and FaceBook pages and “check out” the people they are interviewing.)

Bottom line: You need to sit down and talk with your pre-teen and teen-ager about using common sense when it comes to the Internet and cell phones. They need to know that a moment of stupidity or impulsiveness could haunt them for the rest of their lives, both emotionally—and professionally.

(For more on this topic, see the February issue of Empowering Parents.)


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    To Tonja: This issue with the texting certainly does sound like a mystery. You didn’t mention your daughter’s age, but you have good reason to question whether or not she is able to handle the responsibility of texting right now. If you feel she is not using texting safely, it might be helpful to suspend texting until she is ready to make safer choices. You will need to decide what clear, observable behaviors will tell you that she is ready though. For example, you might decide to restrict certain websites and have clear limits on your daughter’s use of computer and who she can talk to online. When you see her following these rules and limits of the computer consistently, that might tell you she is ready to try texting again. Here is an article about internet safety for more information: Parents, Get a Clue: What Teens are Really Doing Online Plus: Tips on How to Talk to Your Teen about Internet Safety.

  2. Tonja Report

    My daughter had been on MyYearBook. As well as this other one called IMVU. She first interacted with a girl who thought my daughter was a boy. She did it again recently and this time it was with a boy. It’s funny but when I try to call these numbers that she is texting, they are out of service. Yet they can text which really disturbs me to think who is on the other end. I need help. If any of you can provide insight I would appreciate it

  3. carla Report

    I also found pictures of my 15 year old daughter with her girlfriend with very little cloths and poses that look like stripers. I drove my daughter to her friends house,they didn’t open the door, (I think my dauther must to tip theme off). It really embarrase my daughter and she knows I won’t stop,it also help to keep cheching on my space to see if her site will come back.

  4. doris Report

    i highly recommend opendns: http://www.opendns.com/ especially with the addition of other devices on the internet like wii, xbox, playstation, itouch and iphone, to mention the ones i am familiar with. it is ingenious!

  5. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Thanks for your comments. Please be sure to read “Parents, Get a Clue: What Teens are Really Doing Online” on Empowering Parents for more on this subject.

  6. Margaret Nitolo Report

    I have found that there are more parents out there who would rather sit back and complain about the way the world is and how many bad influences there are, but who will not get off their butts and take control of their children and teens. There are plenty of parental controls for the computers and if the children or teens don’t like it, they can simply be told that until age 18 they are under parental control and to live with it or lose computer privileges until they can live with it. Phones can be taken away, etc. Most childrens problems come from the fact that their parents won’t take their responsibility seriously!

  7. wendy Report

    this happend at our local school which is a real “high end” and priveledged population.
    I caught my daughter and her friends posting pictures of thongs and butts on the internet and I was livid. The other parents were …kids will be kids…and I became the hateful mother. I can’t compete with parents who do not have the same values that I do and their values are taking my daughter down. My daughter won’t even talk to me now. The media has taught our children that anything goes…and us “old school” parents have lost out.



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