How to Teach your Teen to Recognize the Red Flags in Relationships and Social Media


1. Protect Yourself: Sexting/Picture Requests

Why do teens SEXT?

  • While many teens openly admit that they know it's wrong to post sexual photos, they feel the odds of getting caught are so low that they are willing to run the risk. 
  • Peer pressure. This is the most common answer reported by teens.  They state they did it because someone asked them to.
  • Another common reason for sexting is that it's a great way to "hook up” without the fear of pregnancy and STDs.

Teens who say they have sent or posted a sexually revealing photo or video:
    •     22% of teen girls
    •     18% of teen boys

 Teens that have sent sexually suggestive messages:
    •    37% of teen girls
    •    40% of teen boys
    •    48% admit to receiving suggestive messages

 Who Teens are sending sexually suggestive images and messages to:

  • 71% of teen girls and 67% of teen boys have shared sexual messages or pictures with a boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • 21% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys have shared sexual messages or pictures with someone that they were interested in or wanted to hook up with.
  • 15% of teen have admitted to sending or posing nude or semi-nude pictures to someone they knew on-line.

Results Concluded the three main scenarios for sexting:

  1. exchange of images solely between two romantic partners; 
  2. exchange of images between partners that are shared with others outside the relationship
  3. exchange of images between people who are not yet in a relationship, but where at least one person wants to be.

How does it affect their present and their future?
Sexting has also received a lot of attention in the courtroom. In some states, sexting is a punishable offense and falls in with child pornography. It doesn't even matter if it's the teen's own photo they posted or not. If it's a picture of a minor, then there's a problem.  In some states, if a teen's found guilty of child pornography he/she will have to register as a convicted sex offender that can adversely impact their future (e.g., college admission and obtaining a job). 

Because sexting has become so popular amongst teens, many states have enacted specific laws that address sexting by minors under the age of 18, or even 17 in some cases. Many more states are considering legislation that establishes penalties for minors, which include warnings, fines, probation and detention.

In states without specific sexting legislation (Indiana), the possession of sexually explicit material portraying minors falls under child pornography laws that have the potential to result in felony charges registration as a sex offender.

How do we help our teens to say no?

  1. Talk to your teens about inappropriate and appropriate use of technology. One way is to outline your expectations by creating a computer/cell phone contract with your teen. (
  2. Talk to your teens about healthy/unhealthy expressions of love in relationships.
  3. Know who your teen is hanging out with both online and offline.
  4. Make sure your teens on-line profiles don't have private or personal identifying information (e.g., phone numbers, addresses, etc.)
  5. Teach your teen to not respond impulsively to anything on-line or via text.  Encourage your teen to evaluate the consequences of posting their thoughts or pictures before hitting the send button.
  6. Make sure your teen understands that once pictures are out there, there's no way of getting them back, even if they're deleted from their phone or computer.  This is a scary reality about operating on-line.  Let your teens know that www not only stands for "World Wide Web" it also stands for the "Whole World's Watching.”
  7. Most importantly, encourage an open dialogue between you and your teen.  Set aside some time each day to just listen and talk with your teen about what's going on in their life.


2. Protect Your Boundaries: Dating Violence does not always look violent

Why do teens feel the need to control their significant other’s activities on social media?

Many teens do not consider excessive monitoring as problematic, but rather commonplace. Some argue that excessive monitoring is becoming the new norm for teens in dating relationships. This means that it's possible a teenager might feel slighted if a romantic partner doesn’t monitor his or her whereabouts. While many adults would consider such monitoring a form of psychological abuse, teenagers can and often do look at it very differently.

  • Overall, teens in a romantic relationship expect to hear from their partner or significant other at least once a day, if not more often.
  • 11% expect to hear from their partner hourly.
  • 35% expect to hear something every few hours.

When asked about their partner’s expectations for their own communication, a similar pattern emerges.
    •    15% say they are expected to check in hourly.
    •    38% are expected to do so every few hours.
    •    35% are expected to do so once a day.

5% of teen daters report that a former partner checked up on them multiple times per day AFTER their relationship ended.

    Things They Require of Each Other:

  • 16% of teen daters have been required by a current or former partner to remove former girlfriends or boyfriends from their friends list on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media.  
  • 13% of teens with dating experience report that their current or former partner demanded that they share their passwords to email and internet accounts with them.

After the Relationship Ends:    

  • 22% of teens with relationship experience have had a partner use the internet or a cellphone to call them names, put them down or say really mean things to them.
  • 15% of teen daters report that a current or former partner spread rumors about them using digital platforms like mobile phones or the internet.

How do we help our teens to set boundaries?

  1. Talk to your teens about healthy/unhealthy expressions of love in relationships.
  2. Help your teen to feel confident in their ability to set boundaries in a relationship.
  3. Stay aware of red flags and help your teen to notice the red flags before they happen.

3. Protect Your Future: Choices today will affect your future

Why do teens struggle with the “big picture?”
With a societal emphasis on the end result, most teens lose sight on what the big picture actually is. They are routinely confronted with people who are have earned the admiration of their respective communities, but are seldom exposed to the process these persons took to be where they are in their lives. Sometimes, the mainstream media will expose us to the stories of struggles experienced by some public figures, but it usually feels like the underlying theme suggests that people should not experience struggle, and those that do are extraordinary. That said they can miss the importance of the smaller, day to day decisions and ONLY focus on the end result.

How do we help them to think ahead with their choices?

  1. Help teens to build their self-confidence (They are worth the good choices)
  2. Place more attention on understanding/the journey and less on the end result. (“Big Picture” is not the end result and instead the journey to the end result)
  3. Share your own personal stories of struggle.
  4. Practice what you would like you teen to model.