Sexting: What's a Parent to Do?
By John Thurman
He came into my office visibly upset; we shared a quick greeting and before you know it he shoved a cell phone close to my eyes and said, “Look at this!” I was thrown for a loop when I began to focus on the screen of his 15-year-old daughter’s cell phone. It was her, sans blouse and supporting garments. First of all, there is no woman, young or old, that I need to see other than my wife. This still somewhat shocking episode began a new phase of my counseling practice: working with parents and their teens after he or she was busted for sexting. Since that cold winter day two years ago, I have worked with dozens of teens and their families as they come to terms with this phenomenon.
How Has Sexting Happened?
Teens are not well known for impulse control. But, up until the advent of the camera phone and web cams, photos of nude and semi-nude teens were regulated to Girls Gone Wild and shady pornographic Web sites. That has all changed, and parents need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Manipulating Parental Ignorance
What most parents don’t realize is that their kids can sometimes play them for fools. You don’t have to be a techno wizard or a curator of pop culture to know a little bit about Facebook, MySpace, and tweeting on Twitter. In a Reader’s Digest article, Pamela Paul, author of Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families, wrote, “It is appalling…. Among girls and boys, porn has become increasingly accepted, even as kind of cool.” That's a far cry from sneaking a peak at your older brother’s Playboy. Now, nude and semi-nude images of young men and women are a mere click or two away.
You Are the Parent!
You are the parent. You pay the bill. You own the phone. Therefore, you have the right and responsibility to be a good watchdog.
Get out of denial and learn how to check up on your kid. Privacy has to do with changing clothes and going to the bathroom, not ignoring all of their tech communication.
Protecting Your Teen
There are a number of key actions you as a parent can take to be effective in lowering the risk to your teen. Remember, you are the parent; you have every right to access your child's Internet accounts and cell phone. After all, you do pay for them. Forget about their privacy, except when it comes to using the bathroom and dressing. Be nosy, know where they are going and where they have been.
Resources that can help you protect your child:
- Wired Moms - You should really check this group out. They will show you how to check up on your kids or visit their Twitter page.
- Cell Phone Spy Elite - It's a device that retrieves deleted text messages from cell phones.
- Safe Eyes - It tracks your kids' instant messaging, monitors online social networks, and can impose online minute restrictions.
- www.websafety.com - They offer software you can load into your child’s cell phone and computer alerts that will advise you if inappropriate content goes out.
- www.yoursphere.com - A fairly safe social network, LMK (“Let Me Know”) is based on the Girl Scouts site, lmk.girlscouts.org, where girls can talk to other girls about Internet safety.
*Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2010), To receive this valuable weekly resource, subscribe at www.lifeworksgroup.org.
John Thurman is a counselor, speaker, and writer who focuses on helping people learn to develop resilience by bouncing back from setbacks that they have experienced in their personal lives and relationships. He has been married for more than 35 years and is based in New Mexico. Find out more by visiting his Web site at: www.johnthurman.net.
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