If you allow your child unsupervised access to a device you must talk to them about sexting, because chances are they will come across inappropriate content. In my sexting classes, I’ve had kids who were sexting at 9 years old. They were reenacting what they learned watching porn.

Even if you do a good job of monitoring them, it’s important to introduce topics like body safety, sex and sexual contact, pornography and consent to children early on. Positive messages about consent (asking permission), empathy (understand and caring about people’s feelings) and valuing themselves should be heard from a young age.

So you've had the conversations, but sometimes good kids make poor decisions. What do you do when it happens? Sexting is a wake up call that a child needs more boundaries and limits on their devices.

Here are the most important things remember:

Tell your child that if they receive inappropriate pictures, DELETE THEM IMMEDIATELY! Don’t copy, send or show anyone. Showing someone a device with a picture on it could be considered distributing child pornography.

STAY CALM! If you freak out your child will shut down.

DON'T REJECT YOUR CHILD for this sexual development wake up call.

PROTECT YOURSELF. Don’t take a screen shot of the photo for evidence and don’t forward the photo to anyone. If you do you could get yourself in legal trouble.

For more about sexting, including how to talk about it, what else to do when it happens, and what to know about law enforcement, read our Sexting Facts page and subscribe now!

Cheryl Kosmerl, MSW, LCSW

Cheryl Kosmerl, MSW, LCSW

I'm a clinical social worker and child advocate. After more than 20 years of working with children and adolescents in a variety of settings I created Sexting Solutions, a successful program designed to teach kids to respect themselves and others, show empathy and stop abuse. Intended as an alternative to legal consequences for kids who were caught sexting, it focuses on building skills that develop a solid foundation for healthier adolescent years and beyond. Connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking the icon directly below.