Think your tween doesn't know about sexting—sending sexually explicit messages or nude photos via the cell phone? Guess again. One shocking survey found that girls as young as 10 had sent or received sexy texts. If that's not bad enough, tweens may not get that there can be serious consequences to what they say and do online—sexting may be illegal and the photos can come back to haunt them years later. Now's the time to teach your kid to think before she hits the "send" button, notes Esta Soler, president of the Family Violence Prevention Fund (Giverespect.org). Her conversation starters:
Skip the lecture
You'll just get a big eye roll. Instead, say you read an article on sexting and want your child's opinion on it. ("Are kids really doing it? Why?") If she doesn't know what it is, tell her in a matter-of-fact way. Having the conversation in the car makes it easier to keep it casual.
Connect sexting to texting
Your tween may not realize the photo or message can reach a much wider audience than she intended. Explain that texts aren't like private conversations—thumb-happy friends can quicklyforward an embarrassing, snarky, or mean text to their buddies.
Get your child's input on all sorts of topics, including friendships and technology. That way, you underscore the message that she can talk to you, especially when she's faced with a situation where she's unsure what to do.