Being a teenager is hard. Between Balancing ‘finding yourself’, developing healthy interests and friendships, trying to physically grasp the concept of right & wrong, and basically being a grown-up child, it’s no surprise that a lot of teenagers have some form of identity crisis and look to others (the cool kids, the media, the internet) to tell them who they are.
This is where we as parents should intervene. If you haven’t already or just didn’t do it right, here are some helpful tips to guide you in discussing sexting prevention with your teenagers.
How Do I talk to my teenager(s) 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 teens about it. Also, keep in mind that sexting is not solely sending of sexually charged images or videos but receiving them as well. Your teen may not always have control of what he/she receives on social media, but what is done with that information is everything! This is where you come in. The following steps/checkpoints have been created (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 teen more if they are in the know before incidents happen, so they can be avoided, handled wisely, or even brought to you. Some prevention strategies include:
- Develop a good relationship with your teen. Teenagers will only bring, if you have a good relationship with them, so spend time cultivating one.
- Study the games and apps your teens use. You can even jokingly have them teach you how it works.
Teach them to protect their online accounts from being accessed by strangers and people you do not approve of.
Step Two: Start Simple
Just because the subject is serious doesn’t mean the conversation has to be intense. Be warm 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”.
Step Three: Find out much they know on the subject
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 important for your tone to be concerned but open as this is a good opportunity to find out how much they know, even about sex and being too aggressive will push them away.
Step Four: Let them understand the nature of sexting for themselves
It is important 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 prevalent among the teen population doesn’t make it less wrong. It is important that they also understand how non-beneficial it is. So that when they are tempted to sext pictures of themselves or someone else, they would question the significance.
Whichever way the conversation goes, do not forget to include the following key points.
- Inappropriate online activity: let them know that viewing or sending an image or video whose content is lewd and that includes exposed body parts is wrong and constitutes a legal offence of “possession and distribution of child pornography” if it contains images/videos of minors”. They can become a registered sex offender at the very least or face jail time if they are persecuted.
- Teach them the importance of telling you whenever they come across nude images, especially if it is sent by an adult. Be their go-to person.
- Teach them to never sharing inappropriate content, regardless of circumstance.
Step Five: Teach Them Boundaries
Boundaries are important for everyone. Adult and children alike. So, it is important to teach them about boundaries as soon as possible.
- Let them know that people’s property and bodies are theirs. So that they do not request for nude photographs from others or forward them when received.
- Help them learn that they should also not make fun or bully or harass someone who’s been victimized by sexting.
- Teach them not allow others to take a nude/semi-nude picture of them.
- Emphasize that they also not take nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves or others. They should also not share them online.
In addition to these steps, help your teens and kids understand that when a photo is posted 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 or judgmental. Be gentle in educating them. Never use fear instilling techniques, it is better to be open and honest.
Don’t just go about clouting a bunch of commandments but lead by example. Remember children learn what you do and not what you say, so practice internet safety.