Here is an article I wrote for the church newsletter. As an aside, I hate it when pastors post articles they write for newsletters on their blog.
Anyway, the topic of the article is obviously sexting. Parents – beware. If your marriage has managed to escape the horrors of internet pornography – and the odds aren’t good on that – then you are still not safe.
Worse than a $5,000 Cell Phone Bill
Cell Phones. We can’t live without them. For Parents, this can be a problem. You’ve all heard about the Cheyenne man whose child ran up a $5,000 phone bill sending text messages. According to one of our pastors in Cheyenne, the real problem is much darker. Most teenagers are “sexting”. What is that? It is like texting – sending text messages via cellphone. Sexting is sending an explicit picture of yourself to your friends. Children as young as 11 or 12 are sexting. According to my sources, in some cities in Wyoming, it is rare to find children who are not doing this. (Among girls AND boys) Is it happening in Wheatland? I am certain it is. Are members of Trinity immune from this? Well, no. We aren’t immune from this any more than we are immune from any other sin.
From a legal standpoint, sexting can ruin a child’s life. If caught, they can be charged with distribution of child pornography. Not only is this a felony, but it puts them on the sex offender registry for the rest of their lives. Anyone who gets the “sext” message and then forwards it can face the same charges. Because of recent changes in the law, judges have very little discretion to reduce sentences, and can do nothing to keep any names off the registry. You must disclose this when you apply for a job, when you apply for loans, you must notify the state when you move, and your information is posted on a publicly accessible website. And it never goes away.
Even if a child is not caught, this sort of shameful behavior has consequences. By debasing themselves in this way – even if “everyone is doing it” – it can be harder to form real relationships later in life. It can cause all sorts of problems and dysfunctions. It shows very little regard for the beautiful body God created and gave to us. It devalues his creation, and it can harm self-esteem for years to come.
So what is a parent to do? Pr. Kumm suggested the following :
1. Talking with your children. (This is obvious, but needs to be said.) Make sure they understand the sinfulness of such behavior. Not everything that “Feels good” in the moment is the right thing to do.
2. When your child gets his first phone, don’t give them a full featured camera phone with unlimited minutes and texting. He recommends a pay-as-you-go phone. (Trackphone comes without a camera) Give your children a set number of minutes they can use (per month or for the whole year.) When those are gone, they are gone. This teaches responsibility. It also limits your liability -No $5000 invoices from your cell-phone company.
3. When they have demonstrated responsibility with a lesser type of phone, let them use a real phone.
4. If you suspect that phone usage is getting out of hand, again, talk to your children. It may be necessary to confiscate or disable their phone for a while. Talk to your cell-phone provider or go online to find out how much your child is using (or abusing) their phone privileges.
5. Do not be afraid to ask your pastor, or someone else you trust, for help.
When should a child get a cell phone? Opinions vary, and it depends on your circumstance. When they are responsible enough to understand that this is not a toy, and that they are to treat the privilege rightly, then talk to them about it. I have heard as young as 7/8 and as old as high school. (or even older) If they are driving, they should probably have a cell phone for emergencies.