XXX Church advice: What parents should do when they catch their children 'sexting'

No matter how parents want to protect their children from the dangers lurking in today's society, difficulty arises since everybody has access to cell phones, the Internet, and other mobile devices.

Technology definitely has its good side and benefits, especially since it helps people stay connected to one another and keep abreast with current events. On the flipside, however, is that it exposes people to so many unwanted things and fuels people to engage in risky behaviours.

"One such risky behaviour is sexting, a behavior that is unfortunately common among teens today," wrote Cris Clapp Logan on the XXX Church website. "Sexting occurs when cell phone users exchange provocative, nude, or semi-nude sexual images of themselves, often by using their computer or cell phone's built-in camera. The behaviour has become very normalised in our culture, and many celebrities and adult groups even encourage sexting as a way to keep relationships steamy."

While sexting might appear cool because celebrities and some adults do it, it sends the wrong message to teens and tweens, he said. Because of today's highly sexualised culture, teens and tweens give in to sexting and engage in sexual practices that are well beyond their years, Logan added.

Studies have showed that one in five teens has been involved in some form of texting.

So what should parents do when they catch their kids sexting?

XXX Church, an online ministry dedicated to helping people deal with porn and sex addiction, advises parents not to overreact. The first thing they should do is ask themselves if they have already talked to their son or daughter about the dangers of sexting.

"Did you tell your kids about the possible legal risks associated with sexting, and were you using parental controls on your son/daughter's cell phone? Have you been monitoring their online activity and have you known with whom they were communicating with? If the answer to these questions is 'no,' then you haven't done a good job of preparing them, and it's no wonder that they ended up engaging in some risky behaviour," Logan said.

The next step they should take is to evaluate the extent of the situation. If it's a minor exchange of some pictures between one kid to his or her significant other, then the matter can be dealt with privately, he said. However, if it has malice or possible criminal intent, then the parent should seek counsel from a psychologist or even a local law enforcement officer, he added.

Parents should also talk to their son or daughter and give them the opportunity to explain their side. "Talk also with your son or daughter about the emotional repercussions involved with sending or exchanging sex messages. Once an image is sent, it can be very difficult to gain control of that image," warned Logan.

Lastly, parents should consider investing in parental controls on all Internet-enabled devices and consider disabling the feature that allows their son or daughter to send and receive photo-texts. "This is the easiest way to make sure that your son or daughter doesn't make an impulsive, unwise decision that [he or she] will regret" later on, said Logan.