You know how you flirted when you were a kid? Our kids do that, too. The thing is, so much of their communication happens in cyberspace, and the line between flirting and sexting is very very thin.
This is a grey area where our kids simply haven’t developed the judgement to navigate the terrain. As kids, you and I made silly comments and romantic gestures that faded away with time. Our kids face the permanence of the digital world and the danger of being humiliated when an intimate share is Shared to their entire world.
Sexting is common: 15% of cell-owning teens say they have received sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of someone they know via text messaging on their cell phone. That number goes up to 30% when you just ask 17 year olds if they have received a nude or nearly nude image on their phone.
As soon as your child gets a phone or enters 5th grade, you’ll need to help them understand what sexting is and what the dangers are.
Besides educating and warning kids about sexting, we need to recognize that our kids generally are saying No to requests for nude photos…the first time. And the second time, and the third and the fourth…but eventually they get worn down. They need to be bolstered up, and that means they need our support.
A lot of parents tell their kids, “Honey, you can come to me if you need anything,” but the kids don’t actually reach out for support. This article details a study tracking exactly this phenomenon: kids worn down by requests, knowing the dangers, wanting support and guidance, but unwilling to involve their parents.
The real key to sext-proofing your child is getting over that hump. Talk about exit strategies for how to get out of bad situations. Plan and make agreements ahead of time. Make sure your child knows and agrees that the best way to deal with requests for nude pictures is to tell you about it.
If that agreement is in place before the crisis hits, it’s much more likely that your kid will involve you rather than trying to handle it alone.
In support of you,
P.S. Let me know how this conversation goes, getting this agreement in place. If you encounter any hurdles, I’m here to help!