In 2011, teens spent, on average, 2.7 hours a day on their cell phones. That’s more than twice the amount of time they spent eating and almost 1/3 of the time they spent asleep. But with all that time on their cell phones, what exactly are teens doing? A large portion of teens spend the majority of that time on social media sites but a growing number of kids, ages 12 – 17 are “sexting”.

“Sexting” is the act of sending sexually explicit messages, pictures or videos to one or multiple people. It’s essentially equivalent to phone sex but generally doesn’t involve live communications. But as a parent, you may feel hopeless that a tool you’ve provided your child to stay connected has exposed them to activities that could come back to haunt them later in life.

Only you can decide when your child is mature enough to have a cell phone. You should never feel pressured by your child or other families to purchase a cell phone for them if they are NOT ready. But when you do, establish rules.

Many cell phone providers now have options for parents to control incoming and outgoing data from your child’s cell phone including calls, message, videos, pictures and more. Although these tools are helpful they don’t specifically target the cause of the problem and impose rules and guidelines set up by parents.

Although it may an uncomfortable topic to discuss, take the time to explain the consequences of “sexting”. When children truly grasp all of the negative effects of their actions they will learn to be responsible, respect you and most importantly respect themselves.