Sexting is a Conversation for Every Parent and Child
Let’s be honest, as parents we all want to think the sexting talk is just that: the talk we have with our kids that we check off our list because it’s really the issue for “those other families.” Or worse yet, maybe we avoid it all together because surely sexting doesn’t apply to our kids. I mean, it’s for “those other kids.”
This is my beautiful little girl. She’s less than 10 days old in this photo. She was born at the end of October. My husband was in the Navy when she was born and we lived near the ocean. I remember wanting her to see the ocean. Not that she would remember. I just felt it was important for some reason. So, we packed that precious little girl up and took her to the ocean for her first stroll on the beach.
That day is so clear to me. I remember looking at her and thinking of all the dreams I had for her. I remember thinking about how my life had just changed. And, the responsibility I now had to love, teach, and protect this tiny human.
Many thoughts ran through my mind that day. Never, however, did I think, “Hey, one day my little girl might be tempted to send a naked photo of herself to some guy she barely knows. I will need to talk to her about this.” Never!
But, that talk is very much a part of modern parenting. Please don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need to have this discussion with your teen. And, please know talking openly with your kids about sexting doesn’t mean your child or their generation are horrible degenerates.
By now you might be wondering why I’m writing so directly. My little girl is no longer little. In fact, she’s now a lovely young woman.
I still look at her with awe and wonder. And, I love when she shares insight into her world with me. Even if that insight, like the message she shared with me recently, is heartbreaking.
With her permission, I’m sharing her exact message:
I have a friend who has a friend. That person recently met a guy online….she has never met him…she sent him nudes…and now he is blackmailing her. Saying he will send them to all of her friends on Facebook if she doesn’t continue to send him pictures….she blocked his number and he IMMEDIATELY sent texts from another number to her phone saying that it wouldn’t work. She deactivated her Facebook and he said that wouldn’t work. He gives her countdowns….like “she has 60 seconds to send a pic or I’ll blast these to the world.”
So yeah. Write an article about THAT.
It’s important for you to understand 2 things
1. She shared this because she was looking for advice to give this friend.
2. She shared because she wanted me to know this isn’t an isolated case that happened to “that person.”
When 20-year-olds begin advising adults to make sure they discuss sexting with their teens because they are seeing issues amongst their peer group, I think it’s time to drop the shock face and humble ourselves as parents. It’s time to get 100% real because we can’t afford to continue pretending sexting is someone else’s issue. Sexting is every parent’s issue.
It’s an issue every child will very likely face in some way, shape, or form. So, can we all look each other in the face, unembarrassed to talk openly using terms like sexting and porn with true humility? Can we link arms with our friends and family for support? Because folks, we need each other. And, our kids need us!
So how do you begin talking to your kids about sexting?
1. Just do it!
I used to hate it when my mom would use the phrase, “Just pick yourself up by the bootstraps” on me. I feel like I’m giving you a similar line here. But for many parents, discussions about sex just aren’t comfortable conversations to have with your kids. They get easier as you have them. You just have to do it. Doing it BEFORE there is an issue is key. And, having those discussions in a relaxed setting helps.
As parents, we can facilitate that process. It helps to roll these conversations into current events or general family discussions. Discussions about sexting, sex, social media, technology, and dating should be open and honest conversations in the home. And, your kids will feel comfortable talking to you the more you allow the conversations to flow. It’s key that these discussions are conversations and not lectures.
2. Stress character not apps
Talk to your kids about respect for self and respect for others. That’s the biggest issue. The issue of sexting is sexting. An app doesn’t send an inappropriate image or text, even if it “disappears.” A person does.
Remind your kids that once a text or image is sent, they lose control over it. That’s why it’s so important for them to always take a moment to think about the images and photos they send or post. This also applies to images and texts they receive. They have the power to stop gossip and ugliness if they receive a sext or inappropriate text from or about another person.
Walk beside them and help them grow in this area. The world needs a generation of leaders with strong moral character.
3. Be a resource for your kids
Our culture implies sexting is normal. Talk to your kids about the pressures they might feel. Listen with openness so you can offer sound advice. Lead them to resources like That’s Not Cool.
Will you take the challenge with me today? Let’s start using the word sexting with our teens. They hear it in our current culture. Let them hear it from us. Let’s give them real truth on the subject. Let’s give them the skills they need when they are faced with real issues. We need to be brave enough to walk this road with them to help them avoid or overcome the obstacles they face. Who’s with me?!