Question: What's the best way to stop a teenager from using her cell phone to send and receive sexually explicit messages and photos? We recently discovered that our daughter has become involved in "sexting." When confronted about this, she claimed that this kind of activity is harmless since it doesn't involve any physical sexual contact. How would you respond to this argument?


The first thing your daughter needs to know is that this apparently “harmless” activity is potentially illegal. She could face arrest and prosecution for sharing or receiving explicit pictures over the phone. Photos of this nature are considered pornographic. If their subjects are minors, the pictures fall into the category of child pornography. As you probably know, Canada has strict laws against the distribution of child porn in any form.

That’s not to mention that there’s no way to control the number of times a phone-transmitted photograph is forwarded. In effect, an individual who gets involved in “sexting” is giving up his or her right to privacy. The results can be disastrous. We have heard reports of a young woman who took her own life after her photo was passed along to nearly every student in her high school.

On a deeper level, it’s naïve to assume that no one is hurt by “sexting” simply because it doesn’t involve actual physical contact. That argument ignores the profound emotional, psychological, moral, and spiritual aspects of human sexuality. Scripture takes a holistic view of sex. It describes it as a whole-life, one-flesh union between a man and a woman. It further teaches that this union should take place only within the context of a committed marital relationship (Genesis 2:24). It’s impossible to indulge in the counterfeit intimacy of “sexting” without distorting one’s perception of this holistic relationship. Such distortion can negatively influence a young person’s future relationship with a spouse. It can also erode self-esteem, self-respect and a sense of personal identity. “Sexting” cheapens the meaning of real love.

What can we do to counteract this disturbing trend? The technological dimensions of the problem make it particularly difficult to resolve. Parents need to develop and maintain technological savvy so that they can keep pace with the ways in which cell phones and the Internet can be utilized. Moms and dads must warn their children about sexual predators who are all too eager to exploit young people.

Before a teen ever starts using a cell phone, he or she must understand that it is never acceptable to exchange sexual photos or messages with anyone for any reason. In fact, if parents decide that their teen is mature enough to have a cell phone, it would be wise to let the child know that random spot checks can be expected. Your kids should know that you’re prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that the phone is being used appropriately. Nowadays, open communication between parents and children is more vital than ever. This is the only avenue for providing the protection and guidance they need.

One thing is certain: as concerned parents, leaders, and Christians, we must recommit to teaching young men and women God-honouring principles of sexuality, healthy self-esteem, and respect for self and for others. This is especially important for young women. They need to grasp their true identity and purpose. They have to know that their worth can only be defined by the Creator. This is crucial if the younger generation is to overcome the current cultural obsession with physical appearance and immoral expressions of sexuality.

If you’d like to discuss your concerns over the phone with a member of our staff, one of our counsellors will be happy to talk with you. Each is a committed Christian and a professional counsellor.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Originally published at

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