Editor’s note: This is the final post in a series about teens, sex, and social media. The first three posts were: The Urgent Role of Parents in the Age of Sexting and Cyberbullying, Boys Will Be the Boys We Teach Them to Be, and 4 Behaviors to Model That Make the World Better for Your Daughter.


It’s tempting to depict the internet as inherently evil.

We hear so much about the social ills to which it has been a party: sexting, porn addiction, bullying. But like any gigantic entity, the internet is all things at once, which is to say, it is also a force for good in our culture. Yes, even for adolescents.

A 2011 study in Pediatrics found that “22% of teens log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day.” As I mentioned in my first post in this series, the bulk of what your teenager is doing or seeing through the use of technology is likely innocuous.

What’s more, it’s important to understand that some of what your teen is doing on social media or through technology is actually good for them. The constant connection to friends and school may seem exhausting to us, but it can “also offer adolescents deeper benefits that extend into their view of self, community, and the world,” according to the study published in Pediatrics.

It stands to reason, then, that your teen (and you, for that matter) could turn to technology for a little help when navigating the sometime rough waters of teenage sexuality.

Here’s a shortlist of technology-based resources to share with your teen. * 

1 | Crisis Text Line

According to the Urban Institute, 1 in 10 high school students has been physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Only 9% of those students sought help, and “rarely from a parent or teacher.”

Would more kids seek help if they knew they could reach out anonymously and receive skilled, caring counsel via text message?

Since 2013, the Crisis Text Line has exchanged more than 17 million text messages with people in crisis. The non-profit’s founder and CEO, Nancy Lublin, says about 65% of texters to the crisis line are school age kids.

The idea of meeting kids where they are – on their phones texting – in order to help them, has proven to be highly effective.

“It’s really private,” says Lublin. “We actually tend to spike every day around lunchtime because (students) are sitting at the lunch table and people think that they’re texting somebody else in the cafeteria and they’re really texting us.”

On the day we spoke – around school lunch time – Lublin said there were 24 active conversations on the Crisis Text Line, and that six of them were flagged as suicidal. “So right now, in the middle of the school day, there are some pretty serious conversations going on,” she said.

It’s the kind of help that any person – teen or adult – can use in the heat of the moment in order to move to a better decision-making place.

The privacy and the immediacy of the Crisis Text Line are what make it such an effective tool. Texts are generally responded to in under five minutes, and if your first text is found to contain words suggesting imminent danger, the response will likely come in less than two minutes.

“And that means a human response,” Lublin said. “We think humans display empathy better than computers.”

There is no intake survey or personally identifying information required. When the call is over, texters can request that their conversation be “scrubbed” from the record by texting the safe word “loofah.”

To take privacy one step further, the Crisis Text Line has a deal with all major mobile carriers that messages to the CTL short code (741-741) are free of charge and will not appear on mobile phone bills. 

So what sort of things do the trained counselors say? “It’s not therapy,” said Lublin. “We’re really helping you help yourself. We’re asking you questions, validating your feelings, helping you shift to a calm place.”

Counselors might also provide practical information, like the nearest place to obtain a rape kit, or links to breathing exercises to help a person literally calm down. 

It’s the kind of help that any person – teen or adult – can use in the heat of the moment in order to move to a better decision-making place.

2 | Juicebox app

JuiceBox app

Who doesn’t want a sex ed app with the tagline, “Avoid all the Awkward?”

In an attempt to eschew the typical gym-teacher-as-sex-ed-teacher vibe, Brianna Rader, 24, developed an app that’s more akin to Tinder.

The beauty of this tool is its recognition of humor.

With a swipe to the left (“Snoop”) teens can ask a question that will then be answered by a sex ed professional. A swipe to the right (“Spill”) gives teens an opportunity to share their own stories, which can be up voted by users with a tap of condom icon.

The beauty of this tool is its obvious effort to recognize the humor that so many teens think is inherent to sex and questions about the topic, while still providing valid information from qualified individuals.

You want your kids to bring their questions to you first, but if it’s easier or more comfortable for them to turn to an app, Juicebox seems like a worthy parental stand-in.

3 | Amy Hasinoff’s website

Amy Hasinoff

While researching this series I came across a variety of proposed methods for the handling of teen sexting.

Hasinoff’s was, to my mind, the most comprehensive and compassionate. It also read as the most based in the reality of adolescent life today, rather than being based on a desire to scare kids straight, so to speak.

Her site contains detailed information for parents and educators about how to discuss sexting with teens, as well as resources and – importantly – understanding for teens who have been victims of a privacy violation.

4 | Advocates for Youth

youth advocate

Another site that I referenced often to keep my research grounded and unbiased was the Advocates for Youth website.

It is a seemingly endless treasure trove of everything from government facts and figures to full-on comprehensive sex ed curricula.

Their mission says it all:

“Advocates for Youth partners with youth leaders, adult allies, and youth-serving organizations to advocate for policies and champion programs that recognize young people’s rights to honest sexual health information; accessible, confidential, and affordable sexual health services; and the resources and opportunities necessary to create sexual health equity for all youth.”

If you’ve read the other posts in this series (and even if you haven’t) then thought to yourself, “Great, I’m ready to open the lines of communication with my teen. I want to talk about sex, love, and relationships!” but then realized, “I have no idea what to say…” then this is a wonderful first stop for you. Take some time to browse the site and educate yourself so that you feel empowered to approach the topic fearlessly.

Look, none of this is easy. But it doesn’t have to be hard. You have more information than you realize, and the parts that you do actually lack can be acquired. Just like we tell our kids, find an adult that you trust – your therapist, your best friend, your child’s school counselor – and have a conversation. Then figure out what you need to learn, and start learning it. You can do this. 

MORE IN THIS SERIES 

The Urgent Role of Parents in the Age of Sexting and CyberbullyingBoys Will Be the Boys We Teach Them to Be, and 4 Behaviors to Model That Make the World Better for Your Daughter.