Teen sexting - dealing with threats after discipline

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-10-2013
Teen sexting - dealing with threats after discipline
Sun, 03-10-2013 - 10:03am

I just caught my 14 year old daughter with sexually explicit text messages in exchange with a boy who is a classmate of hers (no photos).  She's a wonderful girl - straight A honor student, athlete, student council, church youth activity, etc.  I don't check her phone all the time - trust is important - but I had a sense something was wrong and when I checked, I was right. I went to her and told her I loved her and that I was worried about her and asked if she wanted to talk to me about anything or if I could help her with anything going on with her.  She looked funny, said she was fine, and then I told her what I had found. Her first response was anger that I had accessed her phone without her permission.  I am comfortable that I don't need to her permission for that or that this is not a violation of privacy since I am her parent and responsible for her well being.  Despite my attempts to express love and concern, the conversation continued to degrade by her trying to justify the behavior based on how prevalent it is among her peers and that "this is not the worst of what kids are doing".  I told her that didn't make it right and it didn't eliminate the possible bad outcomes of the behavior.  She has threatened to go out and do "the worst" now, to quit her sport, to quit her honors classes, and has told me how much she hates me, everyone in this house, her whole life, the whole community, etc.  She thinks she needs to move across the country to "start over".  The actions that I took were to inform her father of what had happened (we are divorced and I am remarried with kids from my second marriage) and I also informed the parents of the boy whom she was sharing the messages.  They were grateful and I believe he is likely a good boy too and I wanted each of us to be able to handle this issue with our own children without involving others for the sake of limiting embarrassment, etc.  There is so much pressue for these kids with this kind of behavior.  I took her phone and grounded her for two weeks from it and also from any purely social activities.  Before she gets the phone back, she will have to agree to either drop the passlock or keep it but let me know what it is, and in addition, she will have to turn it in to me by 9:00 every night.  She is still allowed to go to school related activities that she is involved in, including her sport.  I think it's important to keep her involved with the healthy activities instead of taking those away in punishment.  I think that most of her threats were just a lash out in anger that she had been caught and felt embarrassed and feels very pressured on the subject itself, but I am definitely having a lot of stress and worry that she might actually do some of it.  Even if it was just quitting some of her activities, but I don't think she realizes that once she does those things, she's doing damage to the image that she is reliable and hard working - things she will need when applying to schools or jobs.  She has described before the age-old darned if you do, darned if you don't.  If you don't, you're a prude, if you do you're a whore.  Rather than pick her path and stay true to it, she's playing that awful game of trying to be both - one person in front of one group and another person in front of another group.  Things have been up and down between us throughout her childhood, mainly because of the divorce with her dad.  He and I are doing pretty well as separate parents now, but it was rocky early on in our divorce and I know she keeps a lot of anger from that.

Anyway, I'm not doubting my rights, responsibilities or actions as a parent in this situation, but if anybody wanted to tell me if they think I've done the right things or tell me if I could have done something better or different, I'd love to hear it.  I feel really bad and upset right now, mainly because I hoped she would be able to rise above this and also that I'm worried about what else might be going on that is a threat to her well being.  Has anybody else been here on this subject and how have you handled it?  What do you think the chances are she will go ahead with any of her threats and nuke some good things she has going?  I tried to tell her that there was no reason for quitting everything.  No one knows about this except, the two of them, her parents and his parents.  No teachers, school administrators, coaches, law enforcement, etc.  If she starts quitting things, then people will wonder what's going on and she will bring a whole bunch of rain on herself for that.

Thanks for any positive vibes parents - I need them right now!


iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2000

Hi and welcome to the board. I think you handled things just right. I, too, think she was probably just angry and embarassed and the threats were empty threats. If she does actually quit something she'll have to be the one to tell people why. I imagine she'd feel pretty awkward saying she quit an activity because he mom got mad at her for sexting! Plus she wouldn't be able to quit her sport without letting the team down (if it's a team sport). And she may not be able to switch classes in the middle of a semester. I don't have any btdt experience as my boys are a bit older - 22 and 25 and cell phones were just becoming common when they were teens - they each got one when they were 16 and driving but they didn't have texting. Back then not many people did. Hopefully some others here will have some other suggestions.

Community Leader
Registered: 12-16-2003

I think you handled well. I am sorry that this is going on now. I hope that kids learn that cells are tools and not toys.

Ramona  Mom to 2 great kids and wife to one wonderful hubby since 1990!

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009

Dear Kill,

Welcome to our corner of the village!!!

I agree with Pam above, your daughter is most likely doing all these activities because she enjoys them and wants to do them. Otherwise she would not be doing them. Therefore, she is not going to stop them.

We never had this texting problem with our girls because they were so perfect. THAT IS A LIE THAT I COULD BURN IN HELL FOR! LOL! Seriously, they and their guys were so out of sync with their contemporaries in that they did not have phones like most every other teen in their HS and Planet Earth does by 13 nowadays. They and their two guys wanted to use that money going on vacations with all three families—Florida beaches or Disney World in August, Cancun during Thanksgiving week, skiing in Taos the week after Christmas.

I think all is fair in love, war, and parenting—and sometimes parenting feels like war and love. This includes snooping on what the teens are up to. You want to make sure they are not meeting face to face with perverts they met on line, buying or selling drugs, planning crimes like robbing 7-11s or shooting up their high school, considering suicide, etcetera. Obviously I am over exaggerating, but not entirely.

You’re more honest than me as I would never tell them I was looking at their computer and phone. I would want to continue doing so without them suspecting and cleaning the memories before I could look.

At fourteen your DD has lots of changes in her hormones and body. Also, old fashioned teen-ites is in full bloom and the only cure for that is time. By middle teens they have developed bodies without fully developed brains. They lack the maturity and common sense that comes in those out years. So . . . DON’T LET ANYTHING THEY SAY BUFFALO YOU. And don’t take their words and anger personally as they are in the STUPID years. You want to help them weather these years as best as possible.

If you have not started “THE TALK” it is time to start this long long CONVERSATION. Conversations are two sided, they are not one sided lectures. And they can often be very painful for both them and the parents. Front and center in your next few conversations would be her feelings about the appropriateness of provocative messages to and from her guy. Are you aware of what you are doing? And after doing that sexing, where do you and he go honey? Guys always want to go a little further and faster than the girl usually does—places that are not good for you or him. He has all types of guy issues that don’t need you pouring gas on. Fill in the graphic blanks for her, if you must, as she may have no clue.

Honey, what do you think about pictures as they are the next logical step? Pictures of body parts not normal meant to be seen by others, like grandma, dad, me, and all the boys and girls at your HS? You have no control over those pictures and those types of pictures have a way of circulating into places never intended.

You might Google for news reports about “revenge porn” where silly girls sent or gave BFs nude pictures which the BF posts on these sites to get even with his ex after the break up. Their love was to last forever. Unlike love, these digital pictures are forever on the web. Now honey, can you see why I am concerned?

Also, choices have consequences—consequences we would never knowingly choose. You and he may have criminal legal issues as those pictures may be considered child porn because of your age and there are laws against the creation, possession, and distribution of child porn.

And the conversation goes to values—hers and yours. It includes reasons for not doing certain things now and waiting until later. That is a tough concept for the teen.

You want to discuss STDs, pregnancy, birth control, why abortion is NOT birth control and is never a good situation to find yourself in--these and all the other things that are on the dark side of walking on the wild side, things that are seldom spotlighted in the glitter of Hollywood and other media. Honey, are you ready to have to make the excruciating choice between motherhood, abortion, or giving up your child for adoption? Did you know that Herpes is forever?

Bring the boy and his parents into the conversation also. We did when things got out of hand. Strange thing about those other parents is that they want the best for their kid and your kid.

Lest I leave the impression that we did everything perfectly with our girls, like most all parents, WE DID NOT. We first met our SILs when they were 12 and 13 and picked up our daughters for a school dance. (I knew when I saw them that they were “THE ONES”—LOL.)

About a year later I had an IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE moment with our youngest daughter when I was saying something to her about being careful about not misleading the boy her age as his having mild Asperger’s leaves him vulnerable to being hurt. She said she was never going to hurt him because she was going to marry him. (OK Mary Hatch, I hope you and George Bailey are very happy together. LOL)

They were all 15 and 16, when I came home from work early one afternoon and discovered the couples in the girls’ beds. I had kept my head in the sand when there were lots of signals I should have picked up on. See, you got a lucky break early on by looking at the texting—lucky you.

The couples had merged most every part of their lives by that time. Each couple had made private vows to each other on the beach at Grayton State Park near Destin Florida the previous summer when they were all 14 and 15. These vows are significant enough to each couple that those August 2007 dates are engraved on the inside of their wedding bands and not the date of their wedding on March 23, 2010. Yes we are now three years into two teen marriages and yes three sets of parents still worry because worry is a giant part of being a parent. I asked my mother when you stop worrying about your kids and she answered, “I don’t know; I’ll let you know when I do.” Things look good, but so did the Challenger flight for the first 67 seconds.

The couples are ahead of the pack in their schooling and hubby and I are blessed to live with both couples and two grandsons by the youngest couple. WE ARE SO BLESSED!!!! SERIOUSLY!!!! The older couple just turned 21 and the younger couple will be 20 in the next few weeks.

As painful as it can be at times, you want to remain involved with your kid, their lives, and their problems, for the remainder of your life. And that is what “the conversation” allows you and them to do.

We’re now having Mark Twain moments, where the kids who thought we were the stupidest parents in the world are becoming more amazed each day about how much we have wised up since they were sixteen. LOL There is an end to teen-ites and that is the good news. It is a phase we all pass through. As I think back on my teen years, I'm amazed that my parents didn't beat my head off with a baseball bat.

Come back from time to time and share with us how things are going.

Avatar for jamblessedthree
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-23-2001

I agree she lashed out b/c she got caught. I wouldn't be so quick to assume that what she did is a predictor of reliability or trust however, All kids are doing it is the mantra of many teenagers, Lol, I hear that from my kids and while it doesn't excuse the behavior it is a reality check. I have all my kids passwords and have never thought twice about checking their accounts or texting (I probably monitor Fb more b/c I ask what she's talking about if I want to know about the texting), That IS a parent's responsibility and don't be ashamed to tell her that, If she doesn't like it tough!



iVillage Member
Registered: 11-01-2001

The only mistake I think you may have made (and not all would agree with me) is not making it perfectly clear that she doesn't have the right to privacy with technology usage.  Any and all email account log ins and passwords, cell locking codes, facebook passwords, etc. that my girls have need to be give to my dh and me.  We let them know that there would be occasional spot checks (more when they are younger less as they got older).  I would take the phone from their hands and do a quick once over, who are they texting and at what time.  If we suspected something we would look at the messages closer.  Same with email, facebook, etc.

Our kids need to understand that NOTHING they do with cell phone/facebook/email/whatever the current trend is is actually private.  That text you sent to your bff? She could forward it on to someone else.  That facebook post?  It could be shared over and over and over.  Since this communication isn't actually private my kids know that they can't expect dh and I to not care enough to keep tabs.  Add into the mix the fact that the cell phone is on dh's plan so the reality is that it's his phone.  His name in on the account and so he is responsible for it's use.  Same with the computers.  He doesn't want his good name smeared with child pornography, etc. due to some kid.  Our girls were informed that if they were sent inappropriate materials that they should delete it and inform us, just in case.  We don't want to be made into legal examples.

FWIW, #1 did make some poor technology choices when she was 15.  We went in to technology lock down at that point, and she very slowly earned back the use of her technology freedom over the course of the following year.  The biggest hurt for her?  Losing her ipod during marching band season.  Those bus rides to and from marching competitions were pretty long and boring with only mom's old mp3 player (music files only) to keep her company!

Now that #1 is 18 we don't keep tabs any more.  She is an adult (gulp!!!) and hopefully has learned to handle things in a fitting manner.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

Welcome to the drama queen years!  I would have said pretty much everything Kimmybabe said.  Even though she is mad at you now, I would continue the talk about what kind of  message she wants to send to boys--and I never listen to the "eveybody is doing it" excuse.  Because obviously everybody is not doing it.  Is this boy even her "boyfriend?"  Does she like him?  does he like her?  Is she doing this because she wants him to like her and thinks this is the way you can get a boy to be your BF?  I would be particularly worried about that because then I would be worried that if she actually did start being involved w/ a guy and he said that to prove her love for him, she should have sex or at least oral or whatever...well, would she succumb to pressure & do something she really didn't feel comfortable doing because she was afraid of not having a BF?  Does she want a reputation around the school as a girl who is willing to do these kidn of things?  And frankly even though I didn't automatically put my DD on b/c when she was in high school--she was in college and asked for it--in this case, I might just do that.  And I would keep closer tabs on any situation where she might be alone w/ this boy, alhthough since you can't monitor everything, that's why I would go for the b/c.  (My son told me that kids were having oral in the "connector" that connects the 2 bldgs. of their high school--hardly a private place).  I would point out to her that if you send texts to a boy that are all hot & heavy and say that you wished you could be doing such & such with him, then the next time you are physically together, he's probably going to assume that you actually will be doing those things, even if you wanted to just imagine doing it. 

As far as threatening to quit, I think if she enjoys her sport, she is not going to quit it and she probably won't be able to drop her classes in the middle of the year anyway.  If she starts slacking off on homework to make some kind of point, then I would tell her that it's your job to supervise her and make sure that she makes choices that she doesn't regret later.  one of those jobs is to make sure she doesn't start having sex at 14 because that's really too young to have a baby, and the 2nd duty of parents is to make sure she does her best in school.  If she proves that she's really irresponsible by acting like a child, then you can go back to treating her like a child, monitoring all her HW, calling her teachers, etc. and probably taking away her cell phone completely because really there is no reason that she really has to have a cell phone.  So it's up to her how miserable she wants to make her life.  I swear this is really the worst age for teenage girls up until about 16 when they start acting a little more mature.  Good luck.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-10-2013

Thanks so much everyone for your thoughts and feedback.  After seeing your input, I am still very comfortable with my actions and why I took them.  She went to her dad's for the weekend, and when she came back, even though she's not speaking to me conversationally yet, she did go to sport practice and she did go to student council meeting this morning.  Her dad told me she totally denied that it even happened, so I think she is in extreme embarrassment mode.  We have had a very open relationship - she tells me quite a bit of stuff - but obviously she didn't tell me about this. I started talking to her about birds and bees when she was 8 and we have talked about the best and worst of it since then. And it has been made abundantly clear that since she is still a child, no matter how mature for her age, and that if I do look in her phone or computer or whatever, it is my right and responsibility as her parent.  I'm feeling better that she isn't going to totally nuke herself to spite me, but she has a very strong will and since she's my first of four, I was having trouble gauging the seriousness of her threats.  I guess it must be normal to have to be hated as a parent for doing the ultimate right things for your kids.  For anyone who has a totally compliant teen, be grateful!!! 

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-27-1998
Mon, 03-11-2013 - 12:23pm

" For anyone who has a totally compliant teen, be grateful!!! "

Wait?! They make such a thing? Where do I get one?

Seriously, though, I agree with the others that you did the right thing, and also with Ekmama that you should clarify your family's privacy rules just so your DD can expect you to check out her electronic life every now and then, as all good parents do.

The only other thing I want to add is that I think your DD is actually a bit ashamed of her behavior, not just of getting caught. The reason I think this is because her reaction was to want to run away and start over.  There's a part of her that knows what she's done is wrong, and I think at some point you can use her shame as a good basis for a conversation about self worth. You can point out that it's natural to want to protect her intimate thoughts and feelings and that by telling these things to someone else, she has "exposed" herself, so to speak, and risked her core self, which is very valuable and not to be shared with just anyone. It may not help, but it will make her think about how much of her inner life she really wants to give away.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

Totally compliant?  that's funny.  My 17 yr old son is generally a great kid--he goes over & above with school work, comes home on time, doesn't drink or take drugs, etc.  Then yesterday he was giving me a hard time because 1) I wouldn't immediately say he could get an IPhone (he just got a new phone 6 mos. ago, but you know EVERYBODY has an IPhone) and 2) wouldn't let him go on vacation with a friend & no adult--I don't even think a hotel will rent to anyone under 18 anyway.  But I am so mean.  he was giving me the cold shoulder for a while, but I just kind of ignored it.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009

Dear Killrrbee,

Reading your post from a few hours ago, you have lots of positive vibes. Lots of things going good for you and the daughter you love.

These additional thoughts come to my mind:

Everything you learn with this kid will help you with the other three when they get older—make notes. You will have time to polish you’re tools for them and this older one will knock off some of your rough edges and train you to be better equipped. Parenting is one of those activities that about the time you become proficient at it, your job is over and you’re a grandparent. You will get to use your skills again with the younger ones. LUCKY YOU AND THEM!!!!

When you’re talking to her dad you might want to say something like this, “There is no doubt about what I saw on her phone. NONE!!!! NONE!!!! For our daughter’s best, as her parents we need to be on the same page about this subject; absolutely NO daylight between us on it. NONE!!!! Right now it appears to be only fantasy and we want it to NOT go beyond that. I need your help on this” My guess is that he will agree with this as he loves her no less than you do. LUCKY KID!!!! Discuss it with her dad and listen to his thoughts as his thoughts may be more spot on than yours. Stranger things have occurred. Two minds working on the same problem together is a big plus.

Anytime you’re able to have conversations with the teen, you’re moving forward, even though it may not seem like it. Even when you think they are not listening, THEY ARE. If you can, carve out time every week to go out to eat with her and have girl talk. Two Costco hot dogs cost about $3.25--cheap.

When it comes to SEX, most teens are not going to tell you something like, “After the dance Friday night, Billy and I are thinking about having sex behind the Wall-mart.” Or some other similar alert. About as close as they may come is something like, “I think I may need to be on pills to regulate my periods.” Always be looking for clues that should not be missed.

Rose, who posts here, said something very profound on the subject a few months ago when a mother did not want her 15½ year old daughter on birth control. Rose said, “There is something worse than having a 15½ year old daughter on birth control and that is having a pregnant 15½ year old daughter.” I would add this, that putting a daughter on birth control is not giving consent, approval, or your permission for her to have sex. It is only trying to keep her from complicating her life, some idiot BFs life, and the life of your potential grandchild. This is the same concern that Musiclover is expressing above about putting her on the pill.

Before our daughters had sex, they had been on birth control for period regulation, and they had enough sense (since or cents) to call Planned Parenthood for advice on how to use them correctly for birth control. However, Planned Parenthood says that the failure rate is about 5% each year in “typical use.” FWIW, our OBgyn thinks the failure rate in the “real world” is more like 10% each year. So, we kicked things up a bit to the Nuvaring, which supposedly is a more effective, but youngest daughter forgot to do the daily YUCKY task of checking to see that the darn thing was still in place until she found it in the sheets as she removed them from the dryer. OOPSE!!!! AND WE LOVE LITTLE OOPSE!!!! By the time this occurred we were already planning the wedding.

My point is that every boy and girl having sex needs to understand the significant risk of birth control failure. Most teens do not understand this and nobody is more shocked with a positive home pregnancy test than the two teen idiots.

Compliant teens are like Unicorns—a wonderful fantasy!!!! LOL

I hope my ramble helps in some way.

Reading the posts of others, I realized how lucky we all were that I was not your teen, as you would have beaten my head off with the baseball bat. And the law would have called it “justifiable homicide.” LOL

Musiclover, last year on vacation, hubby sent oldest SIL (20 at the time) in to register at the motel while he dropped the rest of us off at a restaurant and filled the gas tank before swinging back to pick him up to join the rest of us at the restaurant. They wanted someone 21 or over with a credit card to register. LOL That is very common. My guess is that they have rented to teens before and found it to be a “not so good business move.”