Another week, another Google Alert on “sexting” filled with saddening news stories and chilling realities. Whether it’s the classroom, the workplace, the online gaming world, or the church (yes, the church), the lives of adults and teens alike are being negatively impacted in the form of prosecution, victimization, blackmail, embarrassment, or worse.
Parents need to understand the prevalence of sexting. A Pew Research Center study found 4% of teens have texted nude or suggestive photos of themselves and 15% have received such images; another study found 20% of teens have sent “sexts.” A teen panel assembled by Good Morning America confirmed how widespread sexting is, and how much pressure teens come under to participate; a New York Times article has also illustrated how sexting is impacting teens.
There is a response: parental engagement. We need to address this issue with our kids, cultivating dialogue that is direct, compassionate, and grace-based. Specifically, we need to:
- Pray for our children and their friends, that they are protected and given discernment;
- Understand the issue of sexting and the capabilities of the mobile phones our kids are using,
- Resolve to model appropriate tech use and decision-making, and
- Engage with our kids by: a) talking about the issue, b) asking questions, c) setting parameters on where and when phones can be used, and d) setting up parental controls through your wireless carrier that disable certain functionalities, limit calls/texting, monitor activity, block content, etc.