Yes, kids nowadays do a lot of crazy things and with technology being so available you need to talk about sexting.
Talking with your teens about sexting can be a tricky conversation. The goal is to create an environment where teens feel they can be open with you about sexting but also make them aware of the serious consequences that can be a result.
Trying to reason with an adolescent can feel like a losing battle for most parents on many issues. Teens feel invincible, act impulsively, and are craving attention but they can be dangerously in denial of real consequences, often experiencing a questioning parent as a nag assuring them that they “don’t need to worry about it.”
In reality, you do need to worry about it and these are some ways to address sexting in a way your teen might actually hear:
1.Ask What They Think
Before jumping into a conversation about what you think about sexting, ask them if they’ve heard of it and what they think about it. After the eye-rolling and one-syllable utterance, you might get some kind of response and if you’re lucky, they’ll talk openly about it, letting you know what they know. It’s sometimes helpful if parents “play dumb” and let the child educate you on something in their life.
Use empathy in your response before jumping into a cautionary lecture. Saying something like “wow, that sounds like somebody’s feelings could get hurt. What happens if someone else sees it?” or “I’ll bet it would feel really humiliating if someone sent something very private about you to someone else” can begin to make your child aware of some of the bad things that can happen as a result.
2.Create an Open Door
Sadly, there are many examples in the media where images and videos went viral only to ruin a career, a relationship, or a reputation and these stories can be a great opportunity to talk with your teen about sexting.
Wonder out loud with them about what would possess someone to take a picture of their private parts and send it. Wonder what kind of hollow promises were offered by the person soliciting the picture and how sad it is that people think that this is what a relationship is all about.
Talk about safety in relationships and discuss how you and your family work to develop trust with each other— what topics get discussed in front of the company and what things need to be saved for private times. Then connect it back to the examples you’ve been hearing in the media and maybe even from other parents.
3.Stay Connected and Informed
Schools typically discuss the problem of sexting in connection with cyberbullying. Teens who sext often feel mocked, coerced, or solicited— bullied into the behaviour and bullied because of the behaviour. Take advantage of any parent and school meetings around these subjects and use the information at home to broach a conversation.
Schools will often bring up incidents where students have been caught sending inappropriate information from inappropriate circumstances and gatherings. This is a great time to reach out and talk to other parents about how they encourage their teens to learn social media etiquette.
4.Help Them Create Healthy Boundaries
There are opportune times to discuss boundaries— putting some distance between them and everything else. When they are small, we teach them about closing the door when they use the bathroom, we talk about good touching, bad touching and “stranger danger.” When they begin to grow up we help with things like appropriate content on TV, bedtimes, and how much money to spend on things they want. We teach them about looking both ways when they cross the street and putting on their seatbelt.
And when they approach puberty, we talk about changes in their body, relationships, and sexuality— teaching them about risks and how to avoid them. Talking with your kids about sexting is another important facet of these conversations. Your kids will need to be taught why it isn’t a good idea to engage in sexting and what to do if they feel that someone is pressuring them into it.
Even if the image, video, or text was only meant for one person, once it’s been sent or posted, it’s out of their control. It could be seen by lots of people and may very well be impossible to erase from the Internet even after your teen thinks it has been deleted.
5.Have Small Conversations
Frequent conversations in small doses are far more effective than just one long, boring, threatening lecture about not sexting and staying safe on the Internet.
When cell phone plans change, talk about safety, appropriate use, and texting boundaries. When new relationships develop, talk about respect and spending face to face time with their friends. These small, innocuous conversations can begin laying a good foundation for those healthy boundaries, self-respect, and safety you are trying to instil in them.
Be curious about what could compel them to offer sexual content or to ask for it. Are they being pressured from friends? Do they feel like they need attention and is that attention healthy?
Brainstorm how they can resist peer pressure for many kinds of negative activities. Ask about their day, their friends, and their school in a curious and caring way rather than making it feel like an interrogation. Conversations like this should occur throughout kids’ lives, not just when problems arise.