We won’t lie. This won’t be a comfortable conversation to have with your kid.
Yet, it’s more important than ever for some real talk about sexting. Why?
In case you haven’t heard the term before:
According to child and adolescent psychiatrist, Justin J. Schleifer, MD, teenagers say that 90% of their peers are sexting.
As technology and social media rapidly change, it’s easy to forget to include this in the “modern” sex talk with our kids.
Or, it’s less awkward to simply tell them not to send nude pictures rather than explain the potential consequences.
But with 25% of young people engaging in it, it’s time to take a different approach.
Before we get into that, we have to answer this important question:
That might come as a shock. There are legal consequences of sending nudes? Yes.
The legal consequences vary state-by-state. Some have laws in place specifically for minors while others will prosecute kids as an adult. The consequences range from community service, jail time, or registering as a sexual offender. This goes for sending OR receiving sexual content of a minor.
Kids may send nudes because they don’t realize it might affect their emotional wellbeing. They could think if they're careful and don't get caught, they won't regret their decision to trust another child with this content.
Unfortunately, that's not always the case because sexting can expose kids to a new set of worries.
After sending sexts, they might feel overwhelmed with worry about what another person could do with the photos. Especially after a break-up, they might fear their ex will react with revenge porn by showing these photos to others without consent out of spite, anger, or jealousy.
If photos are leaked, they may be bullied by friends and school peers. Girls are particularly vulnerable to this as studies show they are held to a different standard when engaging in sexting. They often experience “slut-shaming” by being ridiculed for their physical appearance, their dress, and presumed level of sexual activity.
If kids stress about their photos being leaked or are being victimized by others for it, their emotional wellbeing will be impacted. They could develop:
It’s time to sit down and have an open conversation with your kid. We know it could feel very awkward but educating them on how to protect themselves from consequences of sexting is vitally important.
Start by asking your child if they even know what sexting is.
Understanding how much they know about it will help you both navigate the conversation.
You are the trusted adult in their life. Make sure your kid knows that:
Do your best to hear what they have to say. Making your child feel comfortable enough to ask questions and talk about their opinions will promote open communication moving forward!
Teach your teen to set healthy boundaries with others, especially if they are dipping into romantic relationships. Remind them:
Create the understanding that your child can always get your help for ANY issue, not just sexting. This way, you can be sure that nothing slips past you while you support your kid through the situation.
Encourage them to be extremely mindful of the content they interact and engage with online. They should understand:
Take the time to intentionally educate your kid. Laying down the rules may seem easier but too often this just leads to rebellious behavior. Instead, explain your concerns and clearly convey the legal/personal ramifications.
Most don’t understand the seriousness of sexting because no one has ever taken the time to explain it to them. Talking with your kid about the consequences of sexting and what is considered child pornography is a crucial tough conversation you need to be having.
After all, wouldn't you rather be the one to talk to them about it instead of someone else?