When you hear the term “sexting,” you may think the harmless exchange of risqué text messages to your beau. However, today’s younger generation has given a new definition to the name. Sexting has become a popular trend among middle and high school students who send promiscuous photos to one another via cell phones and PDAs. This in itself can be disturbing, but with sexting, it hardly ever stops there.

Unquestionably, sexting can reap consequences and a bruised reputation is only part of it. Teenagers around the country have been charged for the risky conduct. Depending on the cases, the repercussions can be serious: child pornography charges, felonies and last but not least registering as a sex offender. According to a survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in 2008, 39% of all teens are sending or posting sexually suggestive messages and 59% of all young adults were doing the same. Even more startling, last year an 18-year-old girl from Ohio committed suicide after her ex-boyfriend shared her photos with their high school friends.

The authorities can only do so much and they encourage strict enforcement of parental guidance. Besides having a talk about sex and setting ground rules, parents are urged to monitor the activity on their children’s phones to help ensure they are using their device appropriately. Young adults who exchange explicit photos are especially likely to become sexually active with each other. As sexting cases continue to grow, parent-children interaction should do the same.

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How would you react if you found out your son or daughter was sending sexually explicit photos/messages? What can parents do to ensure “sexting” is not happening in their homes?