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Teen 'Sexting' Common and Linked to Psychological Woes
Date:11/2/2011

or not sure -- were more likely to be involved in sexting.

Other studies have examined sexting on a national basis, prompting parents to question how they can prevent their own children from posting -- or posing for -- these images.

"I encourage parents to treat a kid's cellphone as a computer: thinking of securing, protecting and limiting it," said Marian Merritt, Internet safety advocate for Norton, part of Symantec Inc. As soon a child receives his or her first cell phone, "Set family rules. Age 12 is standard."

"If that phone is a smartphone, password protect it," she said. "It could prevent your child getting victimized" by someone else who picks it up and uses it. And to monitor your son's or daughter's use: "Check your online statement, to see if your child is sending a lot of photo messages."

Parents need to take back control of the technology, she said, whether it's by setting online time limits on the home wireless router or limiting access and privacy: "Charge the phone in the kitchen, some central location, so it's not on their pillow, buzzing late at night with text messages."

Talk to your children, she said. "Don't wait until they're 16, that's exactly the wrong way to do stuff. Start much earlier. Especially with boys, know how incredibly common it will be for them to receive a [sext] message. Ask them, 'What would you do?' What's the right thing to do to protect the girl? Delete it?' Try to make sure he shows empathy for the girl."

Some adolescents will be more affected than others, Merritt said. "In general, with all the things on the Internet, it's very hard to predict who will be impacted. Some kids are able to roll with it and there are others who can't."

Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, said his first advice to teens who receive a sext message is this: "You should delete it and not tell anybody. If it's doesn't get disseminated and distributed, it's ended."

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