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  • Sexting

     

    In March 2009, NBC's Today Show View exit disclaimer policy page for links to third-party websites. reported the story of Jesse Logan, an 18-year-old girl in Cincinnati who committed suicide over "sexting." Jesse had sent nude pictures of herself to a boyfriend. When the couple broke up, Jesse’s ex-boyfriend sent the photos to other high school girls out of spite. These girls harassed Jesse, calling her a "s**t" and a "w****.”

    Jesse was miserable and depressed, afraid even to go to school. Jesse's mother, Cynthia Logan, spoke to Matt Lauer about her experience. "I walked over into her room and saw her hanging. The cell phone was in the middle of the floor." 

    "Sexting" is the growing phenomenon in which young people use cell phones and computers to send sexually suggestive messages, digital photos and video onto the Internet.

    How Big is the Sexting Problem?

    It is estimated about 90 percent of teens and young adults go online. Current statistics indicate that one-third of all teens or pre-teens in the United States carry a cell phone, and about 25 percent of all cell phone revenues come from this age group.

    In 2008, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy External Link Icon and CosmoGirl.com commissioned a survey of teens and young adults to explore sexting. It was the first public study of its kind to quantify the proportion of teens and young adults sending or posting sexually suggestive text and images. Here are some of the results:

    • 39 percent of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages
    • 48 percent reported receiving such messages
    • 20 percent of teens have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves
    • 25 percent of teen girls and 33 percent of teen boys say they have had nude or semi-nude images – originally meant for someone else – shared with them
    • 51 percent of teen girls say pressure from a boy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images
    • Sexting: Law, Teens, Tech and Bad Choices View the brochure in PDF format.

     

    Tips to Help Parents Talk to Their Kids about Sex and Technology:

    Talk to your kids about what they are doing in cyberspace.

    Just as you need to talk openly and honestly with your kids about real-life sex and relationships, you should discuss online and cell phone activity. Make sure your kids understand that messages and pictures they send over the Internet or their cell phones are not truly private or anonymous and could be forwarded and shared with others, including school administrators and potential employers. Also ensure they understand the short-term and long-term consequences of their actions.

    Know who your kids are communicating with online.

    As important as it is to know who your children are spending time with when away from home, you should learn who your kids are interacting with online and on the phone. Supervising and monitoring your kids' whereabouts in real life and in cyberspace doesn't make you a nag; it's simply part of your job as a parent. 

    Consider limitations on electronic communication.

    Limit the time your kids spend online and on the phone. Consider, for example, telling your teen to leave the phone on the kitchen counter when they are at home and to remove the laptop from their bedroom before going to bed. This should prevent the temptation to log on or talk to friends at 2 a.m.

    Be aware of what your teens are posting publicly.

    Occasionally monitor your teen's Facebook, MySpace and other public online profiles. This isn't snooping because this is information your kids are making public. If everyone else can look at it, why can't you? Talk with them, specifically, about their own notions of what is public and what is private. Your views may differ, but you won't know until you ask, listen and discuss. 

    Set expectations.

    Make sure you are clear with your teen about what you consider appropriate "electronic" behavior. Just as certain clothing is probably off-limits and certain language is unacceptable in your house, let your children know what is and is not allowed online. Also, be sure to give occasional reminders about those expectations; this doesn't mean you don't trust your kids, it simply reinforces that you care about them enough to be paying attention.

    Parents' Use of Technological Tools

    Rather than fearing or surrendering to technology, parents should use it to their benefit. Though there are several commercial Internet filter software tools available to help parents keep their kids safe while surfing the Internet, parents have had little success supervising their kids' use of cell phones. The devices are mobile and tech-savvy kids can easily delete incoming text messages and images. But help is available. 

    RADAR ® - My Mobile Watchdog

    My Mobile Watchdog View exit disclaimer policy page for links to third-party websites. is a software product offered by eAgency Software, Inc., available for parents to download onto their kids' cell phones to monitor child activity. Software highlights include:

    • A detailed record of every incoming and outgoing telephone number, and the full content of all incoming and outgoing text messages and digital images are maintained on secured servers for parents to review online at any time. This self-certifying record is available to be printed for easy transmission and use by law enforcement agencies and courts.
    • Together, parents and children can develop a "safe list" of people the child can call - and receive calls and texts from - without needing the parental alert. Should the child receive a call or a text or photo from a number outside this "safe list,” the parent will be notified. Within seconds, a message will be sent to the parents’ cell phone, pager or email, including the full text or photo.
    • It is not illegal "spyware,” because the software does not record audio conversations over the cell phone, and, at least every 24 hours, the user receives the following reminder on the device display: "This phone is monitored by RADAR."

     

    This beneficial software helps parents open the safe-cell-phone-use conversation with their children and lets them know that parent supervision is intended to help; it isn’t an issue of trust or punishment. During times of uncertainty, teenagers who know their parents have access to their phone texts or photos may avoid the unfortunate situation Jesse Logan faced and simply say “no.”

    Last Updated: 5-3-2013