Teen Sex Online Tips 

Teens need information to make sexual decisions that feel right for them. They also need confidence to resist sexual pressure.

Parents can help teens navigate these risks by opening a dialogue instead of shaming. Consider starting with the ‘why’ rather than ‘what’, as this helps your child trust your guidance.

1. Know Your Rights

A recent study found that teens who have a more open and honest relationship with their parents are less likely to engage in sexting, and even if they do they will be less likely to take risks. This is because parents can help their children understand the legal and social consequences of sexting in a non-confrontational way. This includes teaching them about sextortion (coercion to produce sexually explicit images or videos) and reminding them that once they send an image it can never really be deleted.

Educating kids about online safety also means talking with them about what they can expect from their friends and potential partners when sexting. This can prevent misunderstandings about what consent is and what it looks like in a real-life sexual encounter.

Many teenagers go online to find information about sex, particularly when they first start exploring their own sexuality. Previous research has found that adolescents are often looking for a broader perspective about healthy relationships and pleasure than they receive from the messages they hear from their parents, teachers, and peers. They are also seeking validation for their experiences by learning about the first-hand experiences of other youth, including those from queer communities, who aren’t heard from at school or home.

2. Talk to a Friend

Teens learn sexual and relationship values from many sources. In the best case scenario, parents and sex ed teachers impart them, but in the worst case they pick them up from friends and pornography sites. In the latter case, these are often erroneous and harmful representations of sex.

The internet also grants them a sense of anonymity and the ability to search for information that might otherwise be unavailable, such as first-hand accounts of experiences with same-sex partners or stories about LGBTQ+ people. This type of content may be more valuable to them than information about risks and potential consequences.

It is important to remind teens that the images, videos and messages they send can end up anywhere – even outside of their intended recipients’ hands. That could lead to legal problems, embarrassment and damaged reputations.

It is also important to talk openly about what consent is and how to get it, whether they are dating or not. A conversation about this topic, while uncomfortable, can prevent misunderstandings and potentially save lives. You can also help them remember that infatuation (that “butterflies in your stomach” feeling, that “can’t eat, can’t sleep” sensation) is not the same as love.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Whether they’re internet obsessed (which is normal for 21st century kids) or not, teens need to know about sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, and safe sex. They also need to be aware of the values surrounding sex and puberty they are absorbing through their friends, television, music, or, worst-case scenario, pornography.

Previous research has found that teenagers search online for answers and explanations about sex and sexual health because they aren’t getting them from their parents or school sex ed classes. They want to understand how their bodies work and are looking for information that can be trusted, but they’re also seeking validation of their own experiences or those of others like them.

Talking to them about sex is best done in a way that keeps the focus on intimacy and relationships rather than risk. For example, using a technique called mental contrasting can help them realize that the things they imagine will happen aren’t always easy to achieve which can cause them to recalibrate their expectations going forward. That can lead to healthier, more patient behavior.

4. Be Respectful of Others’ Privacy

It can be tempting for teens to think of their phones as private spaces if they’re communicating with people that they trust. But it’s important to remember that anything sent through a sexting app can be shared with anyone else. Using the “do not disturb” feature on the app can help keep things private and prevent others from accidentally snooping.

It’s also a good idea to remind teens that sexting can be a legal issue in some cases. Child pornography laws, designed to protect children from predatory adults, have been used in a few cases to prosecute teens for creating and sharing sexually explicit photos of themselves or other underage individuals online.

It’s common for parents to feel overwhelmed when their teen starts talking about sex and masturbation. It’s a complex topic that requires thoughtful discussion and an open dialogue. Rather than punishing or shaming your teen, try to approach the conversation from a place of empathy and understanding. Then, you can use strategies like mental contrasting to help your teen recalibrate their expectations and behaviors going forward.

5. Know the Law

When your teen doesn’t get healthy sexual information from you and other trusted adults, they may look to pornography. This can give them inaccurate, unhelpful, and even dangerous information about sex and puberty.

Explain to your teen that anything they post online is out of their control. They need to know that even deleting something can have legal ramifications, especially when it comes to sharing nude images or videos. Also, sexting is illegal in most states.

Also, make sure your teen knows that sextortion is a real issue. Explain that if they are coerced into sending sexually explicit photos or videos, it is considered child pornography. In addition, if they are receiving explicit pictures from someone else, they should report it to law enforcement. It can also be a violation of their school’s anti-bullying policies. Sexting isn’t going away, but it is important that teens know what they should – and shouldn’t – do when it comes to sexual relationships. Have a discussion with your teen today about safe sexting.