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Sexting 101- How to Protect Your Children

Posted on Communication, General, Technology November 13, 2015 by Mary George

Just this week these are the SEXTING stories among teenagers that were uncovered:

Parma Heights, Ohio — A 15-year-old girl told her family, district administrators and police that nude photos of her had been posted and shared on the internet and at school.The teenager took the pictures for her boyfriend, but he never deleted the photos after the two broke up.Investigators said it was like something out of the movie ‘Mean Girls.’ Several teenage girls hacked into the boy’s phone, stole the pictures and then began sending them to other people, eventually posting them on a fake Instagram account which they had created.

Long Island, New York – Two fifteen-year-olds were suspended from school for opening a sex video on their smartphones and sending them out on a group text message. About 20 Long Island students were suspended for up to five days for forwarding the video or simply receiving it. Two of the students were arrested and charged with felonies for allegedly shooting a video of the one of them having sex with a girl and distributing it. Felonies are for distributing child pornography.

Canon City, Colorado — Students at a Colorado high school exchanged hundreds of naked photos of themselves, prompting a felony investigation by police and the forfeiture of a football game because many players have been implicated in the sexting scandal, officials said.

Sexting is not going away, it is growing dramatically. How crazy is it that just this week 3 major stories came out in various parts the United States. It happens everywhere – big cities, small towns, and in all socio-economic groups. So what is the true definition of sexting? According to Wikipedia “Sexting is sending and receiving sexually explicit messages, primarily between mobile phones.” While this definition has now been expanded to include social media sites, the legal definition and laws vary from state to state. Teenagers do not understand the consequnces and/or the legal ramifications of sexting. In many states it constitutes felony charges that label them as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. So what can you do to help protect your child from having this happen to them?

  1. 1.  Communication is key – We cannot express this enough. Understanding what they are doing both on and offline can only truly be achieved by talking to them. How you communicate with your child is incredibly important. Are you listening to them or are you busy on your phone or doing work? Last week in our Mother/Daughter workshop that we had, the daughters told us that what they wanted was undistracted time with their Mothers. Meaning they did not want their parents on phones or dealing with other siblings. They wanted to be heard. And you want that too in order to know what they are doing and what is going on with them. It allows for teaching, listening and understanding them. It helps them to believe that what they have to say is important. All of these together will help to protect them. Research states that the communication that takes place at family meals is linked to lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. So keep talking!
  2. 2.  Understand what your child is doing online. Children should not be given a smartphone or other technology without rules and parameters. Think of the web as the wild west – anything is out there for anyone to find. Create rules for your family to follow that suits your family. Follow your child or be there friend on social media. You do not need to comment or make yourself known but if your child knows that you are paying attention to his/her posts, they will think before they post, tweet or send something. And know who your child’s friends are. If there is an app that they have and you do not know what it is, find out. Ask them or research it. You need to know.
  3. 3.  Be the parent. Often parents let their child take the lead with technology. They are afraid that their child will be left out of the cool kids group if they do not have the latest and greatest. I heard a child telling her friend the other day, “I have almost broken my Mom down to give me Instagram. I keep bothering her about it and telling her that all my friends have it.” It is not your child’s choice – it is your choice as the parent. You pay for their technology and you will be held responsible too if they misuse it. It is yours to take away if they break your rules. Do you let them tell you what their curfew is?

 

Sexting is a very scary and growing problem with our children. The consequences of being involved with sexting can affect them for the rest of their lives. It is so very important to be the parent and take the lead with your child’s technology use. Talk to them, understand what they are doing and pay attention. We have to be vigilant in this new cyberworld to protect our children.

 

–Mary & Claire

 

My Remarkable Self® gives student, parent, educator and corporate presentations or assemblies on Cyberbullying, Cyberharassment & Navigating Social Media. Contact us at info@myremarkableself.com for further information.

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