Happy Valentine’s Day to our fantastic parents! I thought it timely to share some potentially helpful material with you on this day, as it is a time when people traditionally share their romantic feelings for each other. In a teenager’s digital world, sharing feelings and showing someone that you think they are special can unfortunately entail ‘sexting’.
As we all know, sexting involves sending or posting compromising images, video or text to another person. What the senders don’t understand is that these messages are often forwarded, saved or shared with others, causing major embarrassment and a severe breach of trust. Sexting is prevalent amongst teenagers around the world, and is often perpetuated by adults who should know better. May I suggest two courses of action in the context of sexting.
Firstly, talk to your children NOW. Tomorrow may be too late. Explain what they can and can’t share online or via their phone. Explain what can potentially happen to anything that they share in a digital format. Explain how their life will collapse around them if they send inappropriate content that is shared by the recipient, especially if they have a falling out. Explain what to do if someone asks them to send an inappropriate images. Explain what to do if they need help or wish to speak with someone. Explain what to do if they receive inappropriate images or video from another underage person.
If you are not sure about what can happen to people who possess inappropriate images or video of underage boys and girls, you should read this article.
Secondly, read the excellent ACMA guide So you got naked online—managing sexting with your teen. This online or downloadable booklet will help parents and children discover:
- Why these things happen and what different people think about it
- When it has happened to others and what they have done
- How the technology works and what the real risks are
- What the first things are you can do to begin to take control
- Whether your fears of getting into trouble are realistic
- The impact on you for the future and what you can do about it
- How to get support and advice from organisations who are there to help you for just this sort of issue
Teenagers have a great deal of pressure placed upon them, internally and externally, to be liked or to be cool. If a girl thinks that by sending a compromising photo of herself to a boy they like will ensure that the boy will like them, they may be tempted to do so. If a boy receives such an image and thinks that his mates will call him a legend if he shares it with them, he will be tempted to do so. It is an uncomfortable topic to discuss with our children, but the risks of not doing can be catastrophic.