What is Text Messaging?
Text messaging (generally referred to as simply "texting") is similar to instant messaging on the Internet. However, texting happens from cell phone to cell phone rather than computer screen to computer screen.
Short messages are typed on a cell phone keypad and then sent to another cell phone user. It is received on the other end in a way similar to a voice message. It is opened and read by the user with the option to respond. "Texting" or "SMS" (Short Message Service) as it is sometimes called, is wildly popular among adolescents. However, in recent years have shown an increase in both preteen and adult texting.
Text Messaging allows for people to send a short, quick thought, idea, memo, or command to another person, without making a phone call. This can be advantageous when making a call is not prudent, or when the message is too short to merit an actual phone call. In addition to text messages, most phones today can send pictures and even video through MMS (Multimedia Messaging Services).
Concerns for Parents
- Sexting, the creation and distribution of pornography with cell phone cameras and MMS, has become shockingly pervasive among teens. Your child may be taking nude photos of himself or herself and distributing them through cell phone use. In addition to the obvious dangers of dabbling in porn, sexting can carry serious criminal charges, since taking and sharing these pictures is considered possession of child pornography.
- The exchange of text messages between kids and teens may involve cyberbullying from either side.
- It is statistically proven that texting while driving dramatically increases a driver's chances of getting in an accident. Many of these accidents have resulted in death of the texting teen and/or others involved in the collision.
- Many cell phones can access the Internet, which means that all the threats associated with computers and Internet use apply to handheld devices like cell phones. Read our Internet Safety Wiki articles about Cell Phones and Mobile Devices to learn more.
How Can I Keep My Child Safe?
- Talk to your child about sexting. Be sure they understand the serious ramifications that distributing inappropriate pictures of themselves or others may have. Once a picture is put out on the Web, there is no way to get it back. Further still, the child pornography laws of this country are strict. Your child's record could be tainted with charges of child pornography that will haunt him or her for a lifetime.
- If sexting has already become a problem for your child or teen, you may need to revoke cell phone privileges or disable photo- and video-sending capabilities on your child's phone. Talk to your child about what is appropriate to send in a text message.
- Don't text and drive! There is no such thing as texting and driving safely, even if your child claims this is the case. Set the example for your child with your own actions - don't text and drive ever and try to avoid talking on the phone while driving as well.
- Consider carefully whether or not your child needs Internet access on a cell phone. As fun and handy as it can be for a kid to carry the Web in his pocket, mobile devices do not yet have sufficient parental control software available. The Internet on your child's phone is probably completely unfiltered, leaving the door to pornography and other dangers wide open.
Where Can I Learn More?
Watch this CBS News video about the dangers of sexting.
Recent studies show that texting while driving may be more dangerous than driving under the influence.