Laws about Sexual Behavior Teens Need to Know

Laws about Sexual Behavior Teens Need to Know

The pandemic has left many teenagers feeling bored, anxious and depressed. While most of the Country is opening up and teenagers are returning to school, they are still feeling bored and isolated. There are still precautions in place such as many places require proof of vaccinations in order to participate in activities or go inside certain places. As a result, while kids are returning to high school, they still feel isolated from friends because they don’t have the same freedom as they had prior to the pandemic.

Most teenagers that I treat for psychotherapy are complaining that life is still boring. The main way they maintain contact with their friends is via texting or by communicating through online games. In addition they are spending a lot of time on YouTube, nextflix, and social media. Most teenagers have grown up with technology and social media so they do not really think about what they are doing on social media. As I said, they have grown up with social media and so have their friends so social media and texting seem harmless to them.

However, the internet is not as harmless as they assume. Due to texting and social media, kids can be teased 24/7 and some become so overwhelmed by the constant bullying that some victims of bullying commit suicide. Some teenagers who have been involved in bullying which results in a suicide have been arrested and charged by the police.

The issues with the internet are not limited to bullying. Sexual activity has become a major issue for teenagers and the internet. Many teenagers assume sexting or sending nude photos of themselves as normal teenage activity. However, the teenagers are under 18 years old. Therefore, sending or having nude photos of your girlfriend or boyfriend is violating child pornography laws because they are under 18 years old. Some states and cities are taking this very seriously. A teenager can be arrested, sent to jail and have to register for life as a sex offender for life if they are caught sending or having nude photos of their girlfriend or boyfriend. Because of the pandemic sexting has become more popular with teenagers and many teenagers are putting themselves at risk without knowing it.

When I tell parents about these changes many are shocked and concerned. However, many assume they do not have to worry about it because nothing like that would happen to their family. However, the statistics show by the age of 15 years old most boys have started to look at pornography. Additionally, teenagers are becoming sexually active in middle school. This is why many middle schools are handing out Condoms to their students. Therefore, while parents think they do not have to worry about their teen being sexually active or sexting because of the internet and social media children are becoming sexually active at an earlier age (CDC). Therefore, parents do have to worry about their teen becoming sexually active or sexting.

I understand that this is shocking and difficult for some parents to believe. Lisa Ling did an excellent show about boys becoming addicted to pornography. She also did another excellent show about the “age of consent” regarding teenagers, sexting and sexual activity. It contains interviews with families who had their worlds torn apart because their teenage son texted a nude picture of himself to a girl. Their son was arrested, sentenced to jail and has to register as a sex offender and he was only 15 years old. I have included the link to the show. I think it will be more effective to see and hear the facts that have unfortunately found themselves in situations they never thought possible. The program is on 40 minutes. If you have teenagers, please watch this episode because laws regarding sexual behavior are changing significantly. In California, the Governor just signed a new law making it a crime for someone to open a condom wrapper unless they have the other persons complete consent. This may be very confusing for teenagers. Since the laws are changing fast, please watch this video and discuss it with your teenager. Here is the link to Age of Consent

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work visit his website at or his Facebook page or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

How Much Time Should Teens Spend Online?

How Much Time Should Teens Spend Online?

 A common argument I hear daily in my office is how much time should an adolescent be spending on their laptop or their smart phone. Parents typically believe that their adolescents are spending too much time on their cell phones and laptops. Of course adolescents feel that their parents are being unfair and not allowing them enough time on their cell phones or laptops. Adolescents typically say they need their laptops and cellphones for homework and to communicate with their friends. They feel that their parents don’t understand how the world works today.
Today’s adolescents have grown up with laptops and smart phones their entire lives. Texting is a very common method of communication for teenagers too. However, most parents grew up when laptops could not do as much and cellphones were typically only used for making a telephone call. Therefore, there is a difference of opinion regarding how teenagers should use technology and how their parents have used technology over the years. Especially, because when parents were teenagers themselves technology was not so prevalent.

Besides parents and teens having different views about technology. Parents are worried that their teenager is becoming addicted to their cellphones. Having seen how some teens react to having their cellphones taken away, I can understand why some parents feel their teenager is addicted to their cellphone. However, parents have additional concerns too. Parents are concerned that with all the texting teens do that their teens are becoming anti-social. Other concerns are the amount of bullying that occurs online, the sexual perpetrators that are online and how easy it is for teens to obtain drugs online. Another concern is that their teen may be involved in sexting or sending naked photos of themselves while on line. Sexting is a relatively new phenomenon so we don’t have a great deal of information regarding it.

However, we do have evidence to support parents’ concerns. There are numerous examples of cyberbullying and examples of teens commuting suicide due to cyberbullying. There is evidence of child predators using the internet to prey on teenagers. There is also evidence of teenagers being able to access drugs easier and engaging in sexting and sending sexually explicit photographs of themselves via text.

Therefore, there are reasons for parents to be concerned. While there are research studies which indicate that there are reasons to be concerned about how much teenagers use cellphones and go online, there is also research showing there is reason to be concerned about what teenagers are exposed to online and can access online. Some studies do conclude that teenagers spend to much time daily online and on their cellphones. Some studies indicate that teenagers should be limited to one to two hours per day online. The American Psychological Association has considered including a diagnosis of internet addiction in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual. However, because the amount of people using cellphones and the internet in numerous ways, there is no agreement about what defines an addiction and what is normal usage. Therefore, parents are encouraged to monitor their teens and use their own judgement regarding rules involving cellphones and the internet.

While, there is research indicating that the internet can pose a danger to teenagers, there is also research showing that there are benefits to the internet and cellphones. The research has shown that teenagers who are depressed, anxious or questioning their sexuality that they can find cites online where they can talk with other teens feeling the same way. Texting has been shown as a way friends have identified other friends who were thinking about suicide and get their friend help. In fact, just this week, Facebook has added additional ways that people can get help for someone especially if they feel their friend might be suicidal. Many teens I work with find it easier to open up to friends or parents via texting or emailing at times. Therefore, while research shows there are reasons to be concerned, there are also studies indicating that cellphones and the internet can provide positive benefits to teenagers.

Therefore, what do parents do? At this point there are no firm answers because this technology is so new. So parents need to pay attention to the news and research studies that are being reported. Furthermore, parents need to have conversations with their teenagers and educate their teens about the risk associated with texting and the internet. Also parents need to use their judgement and set rules regarding cellphones, texting and using the internet that they feel are appropriate. Currently, the accepted amount of time for a teen to be online recreationally so for fun and this doesn’t include homework is one to two hours a day.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist who specializes in treating children and teenagers. Dr. Rubino does treat teens and adults who feel they are addicted to texting or the internet. For more information about Dr. Michael Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at or his Facebook page at