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When you know your kid is sexting, but you don’t know what to do

My son and his high school friends are not kings of restraint. They are boys. Teen boys. Teens boys with cellphones. And with teen boys with cellphones, anything can go.

As a parent of one of these teen boys with a cellphone, I would prefer that anything not go. My son seems to do all right when he is with me or his mother, but I wonder about what happens when I am not there, when he is in school, at practice, or at a friend's house.

Did my parents feel this way whenever I left the house, or when I was in the basement watching a beta video on a rented machine? Did they sneak down the stairs and try to catch a glimpse of the screen?

Maybe. However, it's harder to keep an eye on teen-things now. The cellphone is not just a cellphone: it’s a camera, a web cam, a music library, a portable search engine and a giant tweet for mankind.

(And I used to brag about my watch that could tell both the time and the date.)

“It is appalling … among girls and boys that porn has become increasingly accepted, even as kind of cool,” said Pamela Paul, author of “Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families.”

Gone are the days where porn is stashed under a mattress or in a kid's underwear drawer. Today’s underwear drawer is a cellphone. And I don’t want my kids using it for pornography, and that includes sexting.

Detective Dad

Several weeks ago, I heard through the sibling grapevine that I might want to check my son's cell. So, I asked to take a look at his phone. He freaked — yea verily, with a great freak.

“What are you doing?” “I don’t get any privacy.” “I am an adult now.” “What's a matter, don’t you trust me?” And when I was not quick to give him his phone back, I saw a side of him that I hadn't seen before.

Me thinks thou dost protest an awful lot, son.

Yep. There was stuff on the phone that had no place being on a phone. And my kid is no dummy, I only found a bit of what he had neglected to delete.

Don't know what to do? Try this:

Parents, remember that this is your child. You have the right to check the phone, just like you have the right to look at his grades, see his medical records or have him clean his room.

As a parent, be tough enough because you care. Privacy is something that one should expect when one is using the bathroom or getting dressed. Ask to see the phone at irregular intervals.

Now, we all know that your kid, like mine, is smart enough to delete and erase his tracks. By checking the cell you are declaring that there are right things and there are wrong things — acceptable and unacceptable. You care for his welfare.

Don’t worry if you can't catch him in the act. That is not the aim. He needs to know that you will do what is necessary to keep the family safe.

Don’t be afraid to sever the cellphone ties. Your teen will not die. He will act like he is dying, but you will know better. After a week of no phone, he may realize that you are serious. If there is a continued problem, buy an old person's cellphone — senior cell, one with big numbers and no camera, Internet access or texting capabilities. It's what we used to call a phone.

Know that there are resources available to assist you in being a responsible parent. Here are a few:

Cell Phone Spy Elite is monitoring software, if you feel the need to use such. Keep everything on the up and up by letting your child know that the activity on his phone, as a minor, is being tracked. I wouldn't access this option until there is a proven problem.

Safe Eyes is a parental control that traces, blocks and filters and reports and even sets time limits. Your parents didn't resort to these measures, you say? The threats from the world were different then. Today's parents find it foolish not to use the appropriate tool when necessary.

Also, watch for the re-launch of, software that you can load into your child’s cellphone that can advise you if content you'd like to contain is accessed.

Above all, and perhaps most difficult, don’t engage in porn or sexting for yourself. Hold yourself to the same standard. If you are porning on the sly, you will have no credence or credibility.

Sexting and pornography is an infection. Clean it up, cut it off, fortify yourself and your family by making decisions now that will influence the choices your children make when you are not around.

Davison Cheney writes the “Prodigal Dad” family humor column weekly for See his other writings at and on Twitter @davisoncheney.