When I was browsing through my daughter’s phone the other day I found some borderline inappropriate photos and texts between her and an older boy. I’m terrified of this going any further - how can I prevent that from happening?

Many teens consider sexting a harmless lark – a way to assert their emergent sexuality and to heighten their popularity with the opposite sex – and don’t realize that, in the eyes of the law, it is considered child pornography, a prosecutable offense. While this information probably will not change the behavior of all children or teens, it is likely to stop some teens from participating.

Although a recent article in the journal Pediatrics suggests that sexting is associated with higher rates of sexual activity, sexting does not necessarily mean that your child is having in-person sexual encounters or otherwise misbehaving. In some cases, though, sexting may be a sign of deeper issues. A 2014 study suggests that individuals who sexted also showed higher levels of impulsivity and substance use. This is a good opportunity talk to your daughter about relationships and sex, regardless of her age. It is especially important to remain calm when approaching her, and listen to what she has to say. Initiating nonjudgmental conversations will increase your child’s likelihood of sharing information with you.

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