Media Release: What every parent should know about 'sexting' and cell phone use

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Dayton Children's and Kohl's Department Stores offer tips for you and your children

03-01-2010 (Dayton, OH) - The Children's Medical Center of Dayton and Kohl's Department Stores, as a part of the Kohl's "A Minute for Kids" Campaign, encourage parents to take a moment to understand some of the risks associated with cell phone use - including "sexting" or sending text messages with pictures of children or teens, who are naked or engaged in sexual acts.

One of the big decisions parents face as their children get older is whether or not to get them a cell phone. After all, if they have a cell phone, they can stay in touch with you and their friends, you can reach them when you need them and, besides, most kids have cell phones these days. Children may start asking for a cell phone by age 10 or even younger.

However, sexting is one of the greatest risks of preteen and teen cell phone use.


"Kids this age are totally unaware that such pictures can constitute child pornography and can result in criminal prosecution and designation as a sexual predator," says Greg Ramey, PhD, a child psychologist at Dayton Children's. "This can result in emotional pain for the sender, the receiver and the child in the picture."

What should parents do?


If your child has a cell phone, have a conversation about sexting. If you're not sure how to start or what is appropriate for your child's age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers the following tips.

Three tips for talking to kids about sexting


  1. Ask kids about the issue, even if sexting has not directly affected your community.
  2. Gauge your child's understanding of sexting and offer an age-appropriate explanation.
    Younger children. If your child is not yet familiar with sexual activity, tell them that text messages should never contain pictures of kids or adults without their clothes on and kissing or touching in ways they have not seen before.
    Older children. Use the term "sexting" and give more specific information about sex acts they may know about.
    Teens. Be specific that sexting often involves pictures of a sexual nature and is considered pornography.
  3. Make sure kids of all ages understand that sexting is considered a crime in many jurisdictions. In all communities, there will be serious consequences if they sext, possibly involving the police, suspension from school and notes on their permanent record that could hurt their chances of getting into college or finding a job.
Dr. Ramey believes that preteens should not have their own cell phones, and if recent statistics are any indication, many parents disagree. Research shows that 40 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds have their own cell phones. That number is expected to increase to about 65 percent in the next three years.

Dayton Children's and Kohl's Department Stores offer these six tips to consider before buying your child a cell phone:

  • Have your child pay part of the cost. Insist that your child complete regular chores to pay for the phone and be strong enough to end phone privileges if your child doesn't comply with this expectation.
  • Monitor text messages. Young children have no understanding of the risks of the electronic world and it's your job to protect them. Tell your child that you will be regularly reviewing their text messages. Your child's safety and security takes priority over their privacy.
  • Place limits on phone and text messaging. A pleasant diversion can easily transform into an annoying habit and even an addiction for some people. Kids can become easily preoccupied with the online world and withdraw from real life. Limit the number of minutes and text messages that can be used monthly.
  • Discuss respect and etiquette. Talk about cyberbullying and gossiping with your kids. Dr. Ramey points out that by texting, it is too easy to share any fleeting thought or feeling. Things they would not say in person, they freely text to their friends. The text can be sent to others or used in ways that are harmful.
  • Have an explicit discussion of sexting with your child. Phones and cameras are a dangerous combination for many preteens. Twenty percent of teenagers admitted electronically sending or posting nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves. If you feel your child is too young to learn about sexting, he or she is too young for a cell phone.
  • Set privacy and safety rules. Kids should never give out their cell phone number or accept text messages from strangers. Most parents are unaware of the number of online "friends" their children have and the dangerous practice of sharing intimate feelings and personal information with total strangers.
  • It is important that we prepare our children for the new electronic world, but children should not be put into situations they cannot handle. There are many trusted online resources to help parents keep their children safe online, whether texting, posting information to Facebook or MySpace, or just surfing the internet. For more information about Kohl's "A Minute for Kids" Campaign visit http://kohlsminutes.childrensdayton.org.

    For more information, contact:
    Marketing Communications Department
    Phone: 937-641-3666
    marketing@childrensdayton.org

     

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