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Sexting Major Concern for Parents of Teens in School, Says Poll

A recent survey says parents are expressing a new worry that’s shoving aside fears about dealing with bullies or getting good grades. According to a survey by SpectorSoft, the chief school worry parents expressed toward their children is about sexting, or sending sexual messages and photos out from their cell phones.

Their worries may carry a great deal of legitimacy, as almost half of the survey respondents said a message they deemed improper had been received by their child into their cell phone. In fact, sexting was the top fear of parents who participated in the poll, followed in second by their child’s use of texting. More than one-fifth (21 percent) of poll participants said that an actual "sexted" message had been sent to their child’s phone.

SpectorSoft, developer of monitoring tools for cell phones and the Internet, took a poll of more than 500 customers whose children are in the pre-teen to late-teen bracket, or 10 to 18 years old. One problem with sexting, says Lisa Shaw, child safety director for SpectorSoft, is that teens underestimate the consequences of becoming involved with sexting. The behavior may be more of an impulse action, especially since the ability to make rational decisions is hampered during the teen years. Teens, says Shaw, may not have the tools to identify a message that’s out of line from one that’s acceptable.

Many parents are responding to increasing media stories about sexting by having conversations with their kids about the behavior, according to poll results, which indicated that 84 percent of participants were discussing the topic at home.

However, Shaw points out in a Fox Business article that while parents have good intentions for safety when they purchase a cell phone for their child, teens quickly learn how to outsmart their parents and access discreet tools for interacting with people. While most parents in the poll (88 percent) say they check their child’s cell phone monthly statement to learn more about their activity, teens can rapidly learn to hide the nature of their calls and texts.

In addition to engaging in active conversation about cell phone safety, SpectorSoft recommends parents have knowledge of their child’s logins or passwords to social media sites and check them often, not only to prevent sexting but also to learn if bullying is happening. Using alert-based software can also help, such as tools to send parents a message if suspicious activity is identified.

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