Adolescence is a tricky period. With learning a lot from school, home and developing same-sex friends, it is as confusing as it is impressionable. Even though some parents may think it’s early to have these types of talks with them, this is the ideal time.
With technology advancing as fast as it has, ignorance is no longer bliss for our kids. If we leave them without this knowledge, we leave them vulnerable to online predators’ attacks and allow them to be taught right or wrong from somewhere else, like the internet.
Here are some helpful tips to guide you in discussing sexting prevention with your “6-12-year-old”.
So how do I talk to my child about sexting?
The sending of sexually charged content is mostly voluntarily done. The ideal way to reduce it and the risks associated with it is by talking to your children about it.
Also, keep in mind that sexting is not solely sending of sexually charged images or videos but receiving them as well. Your child may not always have control of what he/she receives on social media; this is where you come in.
To prevent your child from being taken advantage of, there are vital things you need to let them know about the internet. Including the reasons you shouldn’t allow children to have their internet devices unsupervised.
We have created the following steps/checkpoints to help. (Assuming you’ve already given them the sex talk).
Step One: Start before an incident
Prevention, they say, is better than cure. It will profit your child more if they are in the know before events happen, so he/she can avoid them or bring them to you to handle them wisely. Some prevention strategies include:
- Use the internet together as a family, especially with while they under ten years old. Make internet safety a family practice, as they are extra impressionable at this age and children learn what you do, not what you say.
- Study the games and apps your kids use. You can even jokingly have them teach you how it works.
- Protect their online accounts from being accessed by strangers and people you do not approve of online. ALL apps have privacy settings.
- It will profit your child more if they are in the know before incidents occur. Let them know that if they by any chance receive an image or video whose content is upsetting or that includes exposed human body parts, they should be comfortable bringing it to you rather than forwarding it to others.
Reduce internet use by agreeing what devices they can use when they can use them (e.g. after homework) and for how long. You may decide that they should not use internet enabled devices unsupervised, for instance.
Step Two: Start Simple
Just because the subject is serious doesn’t mean the conversation has to be intense.
Be warm, playful and understanding. Start with something as simple as ‘I saw your tweet/post/status what’s up?’ or ‘I’m a little concerned about some stuff I saw on your IG (Instagram), let’s talk” or “Tell me about your online friends”.
Step Three: Find out much they know on the subject and correct any wrong notions
Ask them if they have heard of sexting, how widespread it might be in their peer population and if they know people who have either sent or received a sext.
Based on the information they provide, correct any wrong notions and educate them about sexting and the dangers. It is crucial for your tone to be concerned but open, as this is an excellent opportunity to find out how much they even know about sex. Being too aggressive will push them away.
Whichever way the conversation goes, do not forget to include the following key points.
- Inappropriate online activity: let them know that they should not view or send any image or video whose content is upsetting and that includes exposed body parts.
- Teach them the importance of telling an adult whenever they come across content that is disturbing. Be their go-to person.
Teach them to never sharing inappropriate content, regardless of circumstance.
Step Four: Utilize Parental Tools
- Several tools have been created to enable parents to control children’s activity online and on their smartphones. Such apps make it so that the children cannot download things without a password only the parent possesses.
- Another method is to scan through websites and apps before your child can use them.
- Frequently used pages can be added to favourites for easy access, and so that the child doesn’t stumble unto a different and likely upsetting site in the process of typing the link address.
- It also helps if devices (like laptop computers or tablets) are places in the more general areas of the house where people are more likely to be. Such as in the living room or kitchen. Or better still, don’t allow them to use their phones in the bedrooms, more so, late at night.
Step Five: Let them understand the nature of sexting
It is essential to let them know that sexting is, for the most part, an impulsive act. Make it known to them that it is wrong and that just because it is gaining prevalence among the young population doesn’t make it less wrong.
It is vital that kids also understand how non-beneficial it is for themselves. So that if they are tempted to sext pictures of themselves or someone else, they would question the significance.
Step Six: Teach Them Boundaries
Boundaries are essential for everyone. Adult and children alike. Hence, it is important to teach them about boundaries as soon as possible.
- Let bedtime be bedtime. No phones allowed in their bedrooms late at night.
- Let them know that their property and bodies are theirs. So that they do not send pictures of themselves to strangers or request for images of others or rebroadcast or forward indecent images if received.
- Teach them not allow anyone, (even adults you know) to take a naked/semi-naked picture of them. And let them be free with you to tell you if anyone tries to.
- Emphasise that they also not take naked or semi-naked pictures of themselves or others.
- Finally, help them learn that they should also not make fun or bully or harass someone who has been victimised by sexting.
In addition to these steps, help your children and adolescents understand that when a photo is posted online in cyberspace or sent to someone else, it is still out there and accessible forever.
Even in apps like Snapchat where the images disappear after 10 seconds, what’s to stop the receiver from taking a screenshot or a picture of his screen with another device? What if the receiver decides not to delete or keep the images private?
Let’s as parents encourage openness, by having an open mind and concerned tone, not angry or blaming. Be gentle in educating them. Do not use any fear instilling technique and don’t just go about clouting a bunch of commandments; lead by example. Remember, children learn what you do and not what you say, so practice internet safety.