Yep, our kids are sexting. No parent wants to hear it and no parent wants to admit it. But, if you think about our children and our teens today, it only makes sense. We live in a digital, sexualized world.
As parents, we jump to the worst conclusion possible when we hear the word sexting. We imagine our children are being coerced into sending nude pictures to strangers or that the photos will get into the wrong hands and their futures will be destroyed. Which, sadly, absolutely does happen. But, it is definitely not always the case or the norm. Sexting happens between boyfriends and girlfriends, friends, and “crushes.” Our kids are more often than not, willing to participate in this form of sexual exploration.
In an article for the New York Times, Dr. Megan Moreno, a pediatrician who is vice chair of digital health at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said: “My main message would be for parents to step back for a minute from the alarmist nature of the word ‘sexting’ and think about developmentally appropriate foolish romantic things teenagers do.” Parents might, for example, think about the risky things they did themselves when they were younger, and when they discuss it with their teenagers, “try to view sexting through that lens: here is something that might feel like a normal thing to do and a normal thing to ask, and other people are doing it, but it’s a risky thing for you to do and if you find yourself in that situation we can talk about it.”
Dr. Moreno continued, “As kids get older, the parenting guide by Dr. Moreno in the journal suggests, conversations can — and should — become more direct. Let kids tell you what they know, what they think, what they’re seeing, what they’re feeling. It’s part of talking about safety, online and offline, and part of talking about social behavior, friendships and romantic relationships and how people treat others and want to be treated. For teenagers themselves, there is a thorough handbook available from Common Sense Media, which will walk a kid through the scarier scenarios.”
Project B3 believes in starting the online safety conversation with children early and often. There is nothing wrong with telling children that when we send pictures to others, to make sure they are always “appropriate.” That means with our clothes on, no pictures from the beach and none from sleepovers. If we instill this idea in their minds at a young age, it will hopefully stick with them as they grow older and are able to make healthy choices for themselves.