By NICK CHILES
From researchers at USC, we get yet another reason to closely monitor what the teenager in your house is doing on her cell phone: while one of every 7 Los Angeles high schoolers has sent a sexually-explicit text message or photo, those who are “sexters” are more likely to be engaging in sex.
This study comes on top of one done with teens in Houston, where researchers over the summer released a study saying that 1 in 4 teens had sent a naked photo of themselves through text message or email, and those kids were also much more likely to be having risky sex.
“No one’s actually going to get a sexually transmitted disease because they’re sexting,” said Eric Rice, a social network researcher from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who led the new study.
“What we really wanted to know is, is there a link between sexting and taking risks with your body? And the answer is a pretty resounding ‘yes,’” he told Reuters Health.
Does this mean that you should walk into your kid’s room and snatch away her cell phone?
While that might be a tantalizing option, it’s not very realistic. But there are some other things that we parents of teens must make sure we are doing:
(1) Talking. As much as possible, we have to be up in their faces and in their business. This becomes especially important since so many of them start turning away from us when they get into those teen years. In essence, that’s almost part of the definition of teenhood—establishing an independence outside of and away from your parents. It’s hard to do that when you’re telling your parents every detail of every day. But just because they’re turning away doesn’t mean we have to turn away, too. What it means is that we have to be more clever about it. Look for those openings when they’re in a good mood and ready to share something. That’s your chance to jump in and really get some good intel on what’s going on in their lives. Note: those moments are rarely going to come in the seconds after they walk into the house after a long school day or sports practice. Give them space to unwind. We have to be smart here. The stakes are enormous.
(2) Snooping. If the phone happens to be sitting there on the kitchen table, do you pick it up and flip through the messages? This is an intriguing question, with parents falling emphatically on both sides of the fence. I happen to be one who believes in doing a bit of snooping. In my mind, that’s the price you pay for having a cell phone in my house—a phone that I purchased and for which I pay the monthly bills. But if you’re one of those strict, right-to-privacy parents, you still have to find some other way to stay engaged and get info. You can’t just leave your kid out there on her own, figuring it all out by her clueless, still evolving teenage self. Even the straight-A honor students have been known to do some dumb stuff. How many of us can tell stories about the school valedictorian giving her graduation address with a baby bump?
(3) Scare the hell out of them. We got plenty of stories in the news about girls who sent naked pictures through text and found them plastered all over their school and the Eastern seaboard. A quick google search will unearth plenty of evidence for you to engage in a quick and easy “Sexting” Scared Straight program. Use everything you can here. Don’t hold back. When you’re done, the child should be about ready to throw her phone down the garbage compactor. If she looks at the phone like it has the cooties, you have done it correctly.
1. When It Comes to the “Sex Talk,” We Must Add Oral Sex to the Agenda
2. Good News from CDC: Risky Sexual Behavior Among Black Youth Declines
3. When It Comes to Teen Pregnancy and Sex, CDC Confirms: Teenagers Are Morons
4. Tweens, Sex and the Essence Article that Scared the Crap Out of Me