*Dear Tamara:

I just found out a few days ago that my 15-year-old daughter has been “sexting” on her cell phone with a boy from her school. Up to this point I have never checked my daughter’s phone or gone through her text messages. I just trusted her to be responsible and do the right thing? And although I disagree with her “sexting,” I feel bad that I invaded her privacy. I want to talk to my daughter about her actions, but I don’t want to jeopardize my daughter’s trust and even worse become one of those snooping parents that constantly checks up on her child and only causes her child to become even more secretive.

A Trusting Parent

Dear Trusting Parent:

As a mother of two teenagers, I believe in giving them a level of privacy and teaching them responsibility, but I believe even greater in “checks and balances!” This means I am going to periodically “check” everything! I scroll through the iPod from time to time and listen to the music they are listening to. I look through text messages, emails, and even do a periodic Facebook friend check. This is my way of letting my children know that as long as I am paying, I AM paying attention! Technology and the Internet make it easier for parents to lose visibility. It becomes our responsibility to go the extra mile and ensure that we are on top of the game!

Unfortunately “sexting” is not a rare or isolated occurrence. More and more teens are sending sexually explicit text messages and photos. Many think this is a way of having “safe sex” and do not consider the serious consequences. Not only can “sexting” lead to the real sexual act, but it can have serious legal ramifications. Teens can be charged with distributing pornography, sexual harassment, and can even end up having to register as a sexual predator if convicted of a sexually related crime. In addition it creates a paper trail, which if exposed, could become a very damaging and embarrassing experience. All of these consequences can greatly affect a teen’s life and future endeavors!

As parents, it is our job and responsibility to help guide children and protect them from those things that do not see or fully understand. Even if you do not “reveal your sources,” you need to talk with your daughter about sex and “sexting” TODAY!

Author of the upcoming book Been There Done That: And Lived to Tell About It (due out Spring 2011),Tamara R. Allen is Your Advice Guru giving REAL advice from REAL experience. Email your questions to asktamara@tamararallen.com. You can follow Tamara on twitter @tamararallen or check out her daily column and archives at www.tamararallen.com.