By Angela Ardolino, Tampa Bay Parenting (TBParenting.com)
In 2011, teens spent, on average, 2.7 hours a day on their cell phones. That’s more than twice the amount of time they spent eating and almost 1/3 of the time they spent asleep. But with all that time on their cell phones, what exactly are teens doing? A large portion of teens spend the majority of that time on social media sites but a growing number of kids, ages 12 – 17 are “sexting”.
“Sexting” is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, pictures or videos to one or multiple people. It’s essentially equivalent to phone sex but generally doesn’t involve live communications. But as a parent, you may feel hopeless that a tool you’ve provided your child to stay connected has exposed them to activities that could come back to haunt them later in life.
Only you can decide when your child is mature enough to have a cell phone. You should never feel pressured by your child or other families to purchase a cell phone for them if they are NOT ready. But when you do, establish rules.
1. Explain to your teen what appropriate use of a cell phone entails. A great idea is to outline a cell phone “agreement” with your child stating all of your rules and expectations clearly.
2. Make sure your teen understands that since you pay the bills, you at anytime can look through their phone, text messages and have will permanently take away their phone if the agreement is broken.
3. Make sure your teen understands that once pictures are out there, there's no way of getting them back, even if they're deleted from their phone or computer.
4. Although we live in a society where celebrities releasing a sex tape or explicit photos creates buzz and publicity, it’s important for teens to understand that such photos or videos of them can hinder or even prevent them from getting a good job, going to college, or reaching their goals.
5. You don’t have to be the only person telling them this. Have them visit www.thatsnotcool.com. This site gives kids the language and support to deal with topics from proper cell phone use to online adequate.
Many cell phone providers now have options for parents to control incoming and outgoing data from your child’s cell phone including calls, message, videos, pictures and more. Although these tools are helpful they don’t specifically target the cause of the problem and impose rules and guidelines set up by parents.
Although it may an uncomfortable topic to discuss, take the time to explain the consequences of “sexting”. When children truly grasp all of the negative effects of their actions they will learn to be responsible, respect you and most importantly respect themselves.