12/05/2012 07:32 EST | Updated 02/04/2013 05:12 EST

Don't Let Your Teens Text Something They'll Regret

The cyber world is new territory and for now, parents must improvise when dealing with these modern obstacles to raising a teen. Between the new culture of sexting and social media sites like Facebook, teen self-worth is in danger. Here's how you can help your child navigate the cyber world.


As new technology has been introduced to improve our lives, it hasn't made it any easier on parents. The cyber world is new territory and for now, parents must improvise when dealing with these modern obstacles to raising a teen. Here are some important facts every parent should know.


Did you know a recent study done by the University of Texas found:

  • 28 per cent of teens admitted to having sent a sext.
  • 76.2 per cent of teens that were asked to sext admitted to having had sexual intercourse.
  • Girls were asked to send a sext (68 per cent) more often than boys (42 per cent).
  • Teens that sexted were more likely to engage in sexual behaviour.


Snapchat is a new iPhone app that allows you to send a picture for 3-10 seconds to someone and after the allotted time, the picture disappears. Because the pictures expire teens are more likely to send inappropriate photos that normally they wouldn't send. Some teens don't realize, however, that if the receiver of the picture is fast enough they can "screen-shot" the photo and save it.


For teens, Facebook has become one big popularity contest. Researchers have found that tweens and teens that spend too much time on Facebook begin to show signs of depression. Why? Teens are constantly comparing themselves to others so when they see pictures of another teen who is apparently happy, having fun, surrounded by friends, or all dolled up they wonder, "Why am I not like that?" This phenomenon has been coined "Facebook Depression."

Effects on Self-Esteem

Girls that sext are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. The consequences when one of these sexts is forwarded to an unintended receiver are even more harmful; Girls are more inclined to cutting, bulimia, pulling out their own hair, drug and alcohol use, and other forms of self-harm. Girls report feelings of sadness, depression, and helplessness due to sexting. Especially when a picture is forwarded, they feel violated, exploited, angry, and even stupid. The bullying that arises from sexting incidences has already caused suicides in recent years.

Between the new culture of sexting and social media sites like Facebook, teen self-worth is in danger; the cyber world is producing a generation of teens whose self-esteem depends on sending suggestive messages and the number of likes they get on a photo. Teens look for acceptance and approval in the cyber world, but sexting and social media can ultimately cause low self-esteem.


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How to Help Your Child Navigate The Cyber World

Here are some basic guidelines they should follow:

1. Naked Pictures Don't send nude or suggestive pictures to anyone.

2. Postcard Test Send only pictures you would be OK sending in a postcard to everyone you know.

3. 10 second rule Before sending a text or an email, wait 10 seconds, reread it, and ask yourself if you are OK if all your friends read it.

4. Know the law Ask yourself if by posting or sending something you might be breaking the law. If you don't know the law just assume that anything that could be perceived as bullying, stalking, inciting violence, and nude pictures of under age kids is not OK.

5. People Lie Just because your friends post pictures of them being happy and having fun does not mean that is who they really are. They too are trying to create a persona everyone will think is cool.

6. Celebrities' posts are not always real Just because you see a cell phone picture of a celebrity does not mean it was not contrived to boost their career. Do not copy them. They have a whole team of people creating the image they want you to see.

How Do You Keep Your Kids' Self Esteem in Check?

The less they post, the less they are out there. Look at their posts and texts with them. Talk about their feelings with them and ask them if they have been cyberbullied or wrote mean things about a friend. Encourage them to control the urge to check their phone every minute and update their status constantly. No one cares if they feel fat today. If they say it, people will think it. Most importantly, try to get them engaged in activities where they are not be in front of a computer or on their phone.

Finally, learn to be tech savvy so you can keep up with all they are doing and help them avoid pitfalls that could compromise their self-esteem.