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Is teen sexting the new form of flirting?

Grab a glass of wine for this one, ladies.

I’m encouraging you today to talk to your teen about sexting. I know it’s not your kid who is sending nudes but, chances are, it’s likely someone they know.

And, it’s not just the promiscuous girls or the jock boys…it’s all of them. Smart kids, athletic kids, good kids are sending naked pictures of themselves out into the digital world and it’s got to stop!

I think I was really naive, I’ll admit it. I’ve come to learn sending ‘nudes’ is way more common than I thought and it’s happening as young as 13. I had the opportunity to chat with some teens recently and here’s what I learned:

  • sending a naked picture is seen as a form of flirting – kind of like, “Hey, are you into me?”
  • it’s expected the picture will be reciprocated, with a nude or nearly nude photo in return (bra, lingerie, skimpy panties, etc.)
  • taking a screen shot of the picture and passing it on is seen as a form of flattery.
  • sometimes the nude pictures are saved as collateral or revenge should the relationship turn sour.

I’m telling you…it’s a whole new world out there, moms. As the parent of a teenager in this crazy digital age, I learn something new every single day.

Here’s what scares me most about this trend – our kids seem kind of  laissez-faire about it. “It happens all the time” or “It’s no big deal” are common sentiments with many teens.

Well, you know what…it is a big deal. I don’t think our teens fully realize the impact a picture like this can have on someone – reputations and lives can be destroyed. 

It’s important to be crystal clear with your teenager about the legal ramifications of these pictures – passing them on can be considered cyberbullying and transmission of child pornography. If you own the phone your child is using, you too can be implicated.

I don’t believe in scare tactics, but perhaps we need to sit our teens down and go over the sad suicide cases of Halifax teen Rehtaeh Parsons and BC teenager Amanda Todd, both victims of cyberbullying. We know what happened, but maybe our kids don’t?

I know you might find this conversation uncomfortable or downright awkward, but it is one you need to have. Our kids need to know this behavior is unacceptable in any circumstance – even if they ARE in a romantic relationship. During the teen years, those relationships may last months, and in some cases, only weeks.

“At the very least they need to delete the picture and at the very most they may need to report it,” says Julie Freedman-Smith of Parenting Power. “If your child receives a nude picture and tells the sender to stop, but he/she keeps sending, that is harassment,” she adds.

Equip your teenager with some phrases, so they can put a quick end to the situation.

  • That’s not cool.
  • No thanks.
  • Let me be clear…don’t send me anything like that again.

The best way to broach the subject with your teen? Don’t be accusatory and take the focus off of them.

  • Try “Has this ever happened to anyone you know?”  vs. “Has this ever happened to you?”

If you find out your teen is the one sending the nudes, it’s important to find out why.

  • Is she being forced or harassed into sending these pictures?
  • Why does she feel this is the right way to get someone’s attention?
  • Talk to her about respecting herself and her body
  • Empower her to say,”NO!” if she’s being asked to do something that makes her uncomfortable

If you find out your son is sending nudes, here are some things to explore:

  • Is this the result of peer pressure – locker room pics seem to be a ‘thing’
  • Empower him to say, “No!” to something he knows isn’t right
  • Does he think this makes him cool?
  • Is this really the right way to get a girl’s attention?

I’m not the only mom concerned. A friend and former colleague of mine, Lisa Ostrikoff, recently did a Facebook Live about this very topic…you can check it out here.

Another helpful resource on this topic is a guest blog at Kids Help Phone called Sexting and The Law.

I know our teens are living much of their lives online, so it is our job to coach them through it. If you are not having this conversation with your teen, start NOW.  It takes a village, friends…and I don’t want a naked picture of my kid or yours to be making the rounds at school.

I want to hear from you on this issue…what are your teens telling you about nudes and sexting?

Michelle
 

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