How To Help Your Child With Sexting?
What one girl says on sexting:
“I think there is a lot of pressure put on girls these days to show themselves off. I’ve never been the type of girl guys wanted, so last year when a boy from my English class started paying special attention to me, I was excited. He was nice and called me beautiful, something no one ever had before. About a month after we started getting close, he asked for pictures. It made me uncomfortable, but he wouldn’t stop. Every time I said no he would get angry and yell at me. I felt like I was the one doing something wrong because I chose not to reveal myself to him.”
What if this was your daughter going through this?
Sexting is becoming a huge problem for young people today.
According to “Very Well Family” a photo shared between two people can quickly become a viral phenomenon. Teens may believe it will be kept private and then discover it has been shared widely with their peers, sometimes with grave consequences.
The after effects can be devastating and can be the catalyst for extreme forms of bullying, self-harm, fear and humiliation. As a result, a young person can feel extreme shame which can, in turn, lead to suicidal thoughts, especially if an image they shared with one person has been re-shared.
No Bullying states that when it comes to sexting sexually explicit written messages, more boys send them than girls. Statistics show that 24% of high school aged students (between the ages of 14 and 17), and 33% of college students (between the ages of 18 to 24), have at one time or another, sent a nude or semi-nude photo to another person.
The Australian Government statistics show that 88% of images sent end up on multiple sites with 1 in 3 on the worldwide web which is a dangerous place indeed and viewed by paedophile rings.
I spoke with Kerrie Atherton, who is an inspirational speaker and founder of "Stories Of HOPE Australia", and a youth educator at schools.
Kerrie encourages the youth of today to seek education on the topic to keep themselves safe.
When Kerrie did her presentation at a school recently, she separated boys and girls into separate groups. She asked the boys this question “Why do you think girls send sext messages?’, then asked the girls “Why do you think boys ask for them?” Both the girls and the boys were shocked by each other’s answers.
A couple of the boy's groups said: "girls send photos because they want attention and because they are insecure."
A general statement was made that girls felt pressured by boys to send images and a couple of the girl's groups said boys ask for a photo because they are desperate, perverts, and also due to what they see online with pornography.
Not only can sexting lead to abuse but also to criminal charges. There have been arrests of teens who shared photos of themselves or other underage teens. While some states have laws that differentiate sexting from child pornography, others do not. Sexting could result in charges of distributing or possessing child pornography, especially as the laws around the distribution of sext messages and child protection laws has really tightened up leaving many young people in the dark. Victoria Legal Aid states that the maximum penalty for sexting offence is two years jail, and threating to send an intimate image of a person to others if the person believes that you will carry out the threat may also be a criminal offence. The maximum penalty for this offence is one year in jail.
Kerrie explains to the students in her presentation that “today is a new day.” There is no time like the present to decide to not to be involved with sexting.
But at the end of the day the kids need our support.
If a young person has a healthy support network who will look out for their best interest and one where they can hold each other accountable to make positive decisions, this will have a huge impact. It can help them in the choices they make today, which will give them a much greater tomorrow. Even though the topic of sexting can be uncomfortable with some parents, it is a topic we need to communicate and discuss with our children so we can support them.
Here is how Kids Helpline state how to support your child with sexting:
Tell them that sexting is illegal and images can be difficult to remove once posted.
Give them clear expectations about how they use their mobile phones.
Advise them to report ‘strange’ behaviour online just like they would offline.
Don’t minimise sexting as a “prank”.
Have open discussions about who they talk to online.
Talk through their experience or what they've heard about sexting.
Try not to use labels like “promiscuous” when talking about sexting.
It's important to remain calm and approachable and let them know you care.
Reassure them that talking about sexting doesn’t mean they have to give up their phone/device.
There is help available
If you are struggling with a parenting issue like this one, know that you're not alone.
Check out the eSafety website for more information on how to support your child and how to report sexting. You can also call Parentline in your State or Territory for more support and guidance on any parenting issue.
Carolyn Rowland is a qualified NLP Master Therapist, Advanced Practitioner of Matrix Therapies, Time Line Therapist, Practitioner of Hypnotherapy, has a Diploma for Business and Life Coaching and A Professional Image Stylist. Carolyn is happily married to her husband Simon, and raised four beautiful children, who are now young adults and a teenager.