I found out that a young person is sexting. Should I talk to her parents?

Dear Stop It Now!
My daughter is worried about a 15 year old friend of hers who is sending nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend through her cell phone. Should I talk to this girl’s parents? Do you have any suggestions about how parents can talk to their kids about the dangers of sexting?
 

Dear Concerned Parent,
Yes, it is recommended that you speak with this girl's parents. If the case was reversed, I imagine you would want to know if your daughter was engaged in risky behaviors. Talking to a child’s parents about their child’s risky behaviors may appear difficult and uncomfortable, but almost everyone we speak to on the Helpline agrees that, if the situation were reversed, they would want to know if their child was doing something dangerous.  Adults speaking up and working together helps keep children and teenagers safe. Conversations that are focused on safety, and are held in a compassionate and non-confrontational way will help pave the way. 

There is a lot of good information available for parents concerned about their child’s use of technology. You may want to read our tip sheet, Keeping children and adults safe on the internetAdvocates for Youth offers a guide for parents: A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety: Sexuality and the Internet. Their resources provide information not only about specific unsafe online behaviors, including posting inappropriate photos, but also go over what a parent can do to make sure their child is safe online.  In some cases, kids and teens are really unaware of what could happen, and knowing how to talk over the risks with them may lead them to stop dangerous behaviors.

One piece that I thought might be especially helpful was a sample contract that parents can use with teens in getting them to comply with safety rules online.  Having a contract with your teenagers regarding their use of the internet can help claify expectations and rulesl. Having a contract in place that allows everyone – parents and kids – to agree on what is acceptable and what is not, can be useful.

A last thought – I was glad to hear that your daughter understands the risks of sexting.   And, in terms of prevention, it’s great that she has the kind of trust in you that kids and teens need to have in their parents in order to be able to tell them about risky or scary situations that they or a friend may be facing.

Your daughter’s friend’s mother will most likely thank you for caring about her daughter’s safety. We thank you for helping to keep a child safe.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 3rd, 2012