Texting and “Sexting”: Teaching Teens to Engage with God and Others
Texting is here to stay. It’s part of the growing technology world that you teenagers know and love. But it’s also important that your teenager know when it’ appropriate to text and when it’s not.
Thomas l. Friedman was disturbed when he read a article in the New York Times about a teenage girl’s use of digital devices—she sends and receives “27,000 texts in a month…carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time..texts between classes…and, often, while studying.” Her grades, as a result are slipping. “We need students who come to school ready to learn, not to text…and an all-society effort…to nurture a culture of achievement and excellence.”1
Wilkes University professors report that texting is now the number one distraction in class. “Nine in 10 admit to sending text messages during class—and nearly half say it’s easy to do so undetected. Even more troubling, 10 percent say they have sent or received text during exams, and 3 percent admit to using their phone to cheat.” Psychology professor Deborah Tindell says, “Students these days are so used to mulititasking…They believe they are able to process information just as effectively when they are texting as when they are not.” She now tells students that if she even sees a cell phone during a test, that person will get an automatic zero.2
Some schools have a policy of no cell phone use during a school day. Other make rules for when it’s appropriate to use a cell phone-for example, during study hall and in between classes, but not during class or tests. If she chooses not to adhere to the rules, take action. Having no cell phone for a school week is an eternity to a teenager who lives by texting.
Also, it’s increasingly important in today’s world to realize the significance of the types of messages you son or daughter is sending and receiving.
In 2008, high schooler Jessie Logan sent nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend. When they broke up, he sent those pictures to other high school girls, who began harassing Jessie. Miserable and depressed, Jessie was afraid to even go to school. Her mother had no idea what was going on until much later. Jessie agreed to tell her story on a Cincinnati TV station so that no one else would be caught by the dangers of sexting. Two months later, unable to cope with the continued harassment, she hanged herself in her bedroom. Now her mother, Cynthia Logan, grieves her loss and has taken on the battle to make Jessie’s story public and warn kids about the dangers of send sexually charged pictures and messages. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy surveyed teens and young aduots about sexting—sending such materials online. The results revealed the 39 percent of teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages and 48 percent reported receiving such messages.3
Parents, do you see those stats? Thirty-nine percent of teenagers are sexting, and 48 percent report receiving them! That means it is highly likely your teenager has already been involved in sexting in one side or another. So have a lot of other folks—those who ought to know better, I might add.
Take a look around. Adults lose their careers (an ESPN sports guy was fired to sexting), professional athletes (including Hall of Famers) have suits filed against them for inappropriate language in texting, and marriages have broken up over sexting.
Before you allow your kids to have a cell phone (I always say that every teenager needs a cell phone when beginning to drive), or even if they have on e now, impress upon them how to handle that phone with care. Kids need to know that, no matter how private a conversation might seem, it’s not.
Teach your teens to have common sense and to stay within the guidelines to texting. If it’s something that should not be said or shown in person, it shouldn’t be said or shown on a text message either. And if they receive messages that are inappropriate, they should be deleted. If that person is a friend, he or she should be told that such language is unacceptable, and if it happens again, your son or daughter will no longer be texting that person.
Teenagers live to text. Just watch on e sitting with her family in a restaurant, ignoring them and texting her friends like crazy. Then again, if a kid is sitting at dinner with her family, texting shouldn’t be allowed. There is a time for texting and a time to put the cell phone away. And if they’re texting all day instead of interacting with others in person, something is wrong. Everything in life is about balance.
Texting will be a part of your kid’s lives. So make sure they know the guidelines for safe texting:
- Never text while driving.
- Sexual text messages or images are never acceptable.
- Realize that any message you send might become public.
- There’s a time to put the cell phone away.
Texting can cause teens to withdraw from the family. It’s usually the result of having a hime where they are just talked at and told what to do. If you were bossed around all the time, how might you respond? You’d probably retreat too.
Ask for your child’s advice and input. It affirms their intelligence and talent. It also says, “I don’t know what we’d do without you.” Ask your teen questions. “What do you think we ought to do? We’re planning a family trip, and I’m wondering where we should go. What are your thoughts?”
Statements like that invite participation. They give the kid a reason to jump into the conversation. And when you kid opens the door and becomes involved, keep your mouth shut. Don’t shoot his ideas down. Welcome them, even if you think they’re stupid. Encourage your son or daughter to talk, to settle into the mainstream of your family life.
Part of growing up and being a teenager means needing time to sort out thoughts and emotions, to daydream, and to be alone. So experiment with ways to draw your teenager our of his/her shell.
INVITE YOUR TEENAGER TO THE PARTY CALLED LIFE.
Proverbs offers this advice:
“Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life;
don’t for a minute lose sight of them.” Prov. 3:21
“When I was a boy at my father’s knee,
the pride and joy of my mother,
He would sit me down and drill me:
“Take this to heart. Do what I tell you—live!” Proverbs 4:5-6 The Message
Leman, Kevin. Have a New Teenager by Friday. Grand Rapids, MI. 2011, pp. 292-297.
1Thomas R. Friedman, “We Need Students Ready to Learn, Not to Text,” Arizona Daily Star, November 27, 2010.
2 “Pa. College Profs Report Texting Is Now No. 1 Distraction in Class,” Arizone Daily Star, November 27, 2010.
3Mike Celizic, “Her Teen Committed Suicide over ‘Sexting,’ TODAYshow.com, March 6, 2009, http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/29546030/ns/today-parenting.
Material used by the permission of the author.