3 tips on how to talk to your children about sexting

It is important for parents to talk to their children about sexting and what can happen to them.

Anywhere people go in Chattanooga, they will see teens and even younger children glued to a cellphone in their hand. With the advancements of technology, these devices have become cameras, digital encyclopedias, chat lines and movie screens. However, it also opens the door to other issues that can harm children, such as sexting - the taking and sending of nude selfies.

NBC News states that a recent study indicates that children are viewing sexting as a normal step in their developing sexuality. While it was originally thought to be engaged in by teens who were more likely to act in a risky manner, the study showed that it was almost a normal action for the average teenager. Therefore, it is important for parents to talk to their children about the harm sexting can cause.

1. Show them information about sexting

Many times, children may engage in a behavior without having a full understanding of what they are doing. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents should look for stories that center around teen sexting. These may be stories that show what happened to a child who was found with the illicit images as well as stories of teens who took photos of themselves and sent them to others. When parents talk to their children about these stories, they should ask questions that encourage the child to imagine what he or she would do in the same situation.

2. Determine what they know

Some children are more innocent than others and it is possible that they have not yet encountered a sexting image or been approached and asked to send an inappropriate picture. When talking to kids, parents should first ask questions to determine how much they know about the subject and use that as the starting point. For older teens, it is important for parents to not shy away from uncomfortable topics such as specific sex acts that may be depicted in an image. For younger children, parents should take the same approach as they would when talking about inappropriate touching by others.

3. Emphasize the impacts

Teens often act without thinking so parents should try to emphasize the long term effects that sexting can have. First, they need to explain that sexting can lead to criminal charges. If they take a nude selfie, it is technically creating child pornography since they are under age. If that photo is sent to another person, it is considered distribution of child pornography. If they receive a photo of a teen in the nude or engaged in a sex act, they could be charged with possession of child pornography.

Second, parents should help their children understand that nothing posted is ever going to remain private. Once they send that photo, there is no means of stopping the person receiving it from sharing it with others. The image can also be used for revenge by someone else, bringing shame and humiliation to the child.

Sexting is a real concern among children under 18 and if law enforcement has gotten involved, parents in Tennessee may find it helpful to discuss their child's situation with a defense attorney.