As a parent of a teen, we need to address a very uncomfortable, perhaps awkward topic, which is sexting. Now sexting, just to be clear, is essentially the sending of receiving of nude or explicit photos.
I know all of us as parents we want to sit there and go, not my kid. Not my little girl or boy whatever. And we certainly hope they would never do this. But the research is overwhelming. The statistics are pretty troubling. And we have to allow room for the fact that perhaps, whether sending or receiving, this could happen.
So should you find out your kid is sending out or receiving sexually explicit messages, what on earth as a parent are you to do? Well first of all, it’s important to not panic. Not yell and overreact, because if you do your kid is going to shut you out, tune you out. And this very frustrating and terrifying situation, as hard as this is going to be to accept, I need you to see this as a teaching opportunity.
Because the fact of the matter is, your kid was probably attracted to some cute boy or girl, got pressured or something and somehow in a moment of weakness and peer pressure and all that stacking on top of each other, he or she probably did something that isn’t necessarily something they would do.
So realize this, your kid made a mistake. They are not a mistake. So let’s address this mistake. First of all, help your kid think through this logically. Meaning that sexting will make you popular short-term, but it’s not going to lead to the sort of popularity you want. Think about, what do you really want to be known for? Who do you really want to be known as? How do you want to be represented in your school and community?
And just acknowledge it. Yeah, I know that will get you known short term, but is that really how you want to be known. Think about someone you admire. Grandma. Why do you admire grandma? It’s because of who she is on the inside. It’s because of her weird sense of humor and her hugs and encouraging. Ultimately, long-term, that’s what people are going to be attracted to, intrigued by, and that is ultimately what you need to get your kid to focus on.
Secondly, if this happens you need to have a conversation with your kid about what the consequences are. Meaning if this continues to happen, you’re going to take the phone away. And you’re not taking the phone away forever. You can’t police around this. They could get another phone. They could find another way to send out the messages.
It’s important that you correct their thinking, not just try to put bars around their phone. But take away the phone for a specific period of time. Teach them a few things that they need to understand. And then let them know very clearly, when you exhibit these behaviors, I will then know that you are ready to get your phone back.
I don’t want to take your phone away forever. I’m happy that you have it. It’s more convenient for me to be able to keep in touch with you.
Let’s be honest, as a parent dealing with sexting can be frustrating, scary, confusing, embarrassing, all of these sorts of things. Take a deep breath and see this as a teaching opportunity for you to come alongside your kid and help correct some broken thinking that they have right now.
Right now, they have this lie in their mind that if I do this, it will make me popular. It will make me popular. It will make me accepted. It will make me more well received by my peers. That is an area of concern. That is an area of broken thinking that you can use to help correct and to help them see it differently.
Really got to think through who is it you want to be and who and how do you want to be known.