CyberSafe and Savvy Tip 17: Talking to Kids About Sexting

Have you and your kids had “the talk”?

In today’s digital society we actually have to have a bunch of “talks” with our kids. There’s the one that jumps to mind when we think of “the talk” – sex. Then, there’s all the stuff that comes with being part of the digital world that sometimes has to do with sex and sexuality but more times than not has to do with just growing up and learning to act more grown up.

In today’s digital world, kids have cell phones at younger and younger ages. While this may seem like a great idea for communication, we have to remember that our kids are still learning and growing. They will make mistakes and not always think before they text and hit “send” or take a picture and hit “send” or create a post and hit “send”, to name some of the more common activities that kids of all ages do with their cell phones.

So, to keep our kids safe in today’s very mobile digital world, we have to talk to them about the rules for the road of that world, just as our parents did with us with all the stuff that existed when we were kids.

In today’s world, that means having open and honest conversations about:

  • sexting
  • cyberbullying and bullying
  • apps
  • online shopping
  • privacy settings
  • friends and friending
  • how to text and post appropriately

Luckily, some of these issues only come into play with the fancier phones. So, you can hold off on having some conversations until your kids are ready for those phones.

But, even for the most basic, phones, if you can’t talk to your kids about sexting, bullying and cyberbullying, you’re child is likely not ready for the phone.

Keep in mind, sexting has nothing to do with having sex, for most kids – it’s about being part of a culture, often a relationship. It’s about exploration and is really a very normal part of teenage development. But, there are some significant legal issues with it so we have to make sure our kids understand that the sending and receiving of those images is just poor judgement but illegal in most states.

To help you sort out how best to talk to your kids about this very challenging issue, I helped the American Academy of Pediatrics create some tips. Use them to talk to your kids – even if they already have a cell phone. I know it’s a tough conversation – believe me, I’ve been there with both my girls. But, better to have the awkward conversation, complete with eye rolls, and know your kids are safe, then ignore it and hope for the best.

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