Rachel Busman, PsyD recently published a Huffington Post article called Caught Your Kid Sexting, Now What?
Dr. Busman makes great points related to parent education; a point I stress when teaching parents, students, and school districts. Parents must become educated when it comes to their child’s actual digital life. Once educated, parents need to engage at every level of their child’s digital experience. And yes that means setting limitations (GASP!) and snooping.
- Is it hard? Yes.
- Is it exhausting? Yes.
- Do you have any other choice? No.
For the record
I take issue with just a few things in Busman’s article
- While some tweens and teens use Facebook (for reasons I can’t explain, kids in rural areas tend to use Facebook more than kids living in urban or suburban areas). If we’re going to talk about being educated about your child’s actual digital life, put a closer eye to: Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and Ask.fm
- Sexting is a felony. If your child takes a sexually suggestive photo of him/herself and sends it to someone else, even another child – your child may very likely be charged with a F-E-L-O-N-Y. And it’s happening every single day. Sexting is unlike alcohol use, breaking curfew, or other relatively minor youthful transgressions. Your child’s future is at risk, quite literally, at the hands of the device he is carrying in his back pocket.
- The reality of this situation is that teens are losing their: lives (via sextortion, suicide, and homicide), personal reputations, athletic and academic college scholarships, college acceptances, and in some cases their personal freedom as they go to jail or get listed on a child predator registry (or both). (Note: Yes, your little angel can be listed as a sexual predator if convicted of sexting which is actually a charge of creation, possession, and/or trafficking of child pornography – which will do wonders for their future career options.)
She said WHAT?
I agree with Busman when it comes to her points on : parent education and rule setting. But then, she says that if you do, in fact, catch your child sexting:
“Hard as it may be, you want your tone to be open and concerned — not angry and blaming, or shocked and horrified. You don’t want to start out by slapping on a bunch of restrictions. You’re not going to be able to have a real conversation if you do that, and kids will be more prone to do an end-run around the rules if they don’t feel that you understand them. Social media may not seem important to you, but it can seem like life or death to teenagers.”
OK, so this shocks me a little bit. I think I even sucked in my breath and muttered an “oh, HELL no”.
I happen to be a huge supporter of our teens and I love meeting your children when I present at schools all over the United States. The vast majority of these kids are smart and funny. They’re trying hard to just get through a life that seems like some sort of medieval obstacle course complete with swinging blades and burning bales of hay. Your children need your help. As a parent that “help” can sometimes require you to push, and other times pull.
Grab a Hammer
Busman recommends calm and NOT slapping on a bunch of restrictions. Really?
If I have done my part as a parent; if I have taken the time and effort to become educated as to my child’s digital life; if I have become engaged and asked all the right questions; if I have set rules and I’ve tried to be a good digital role model; if I have told my child to NOT take a photo of her junk, if my child KNOWS this…..and still she takes a photo of said junk? There will be no calm and there will be no discussion.
I’ve been teaching Internet Safety since 2003 and I’ve seen parents come and go by the score. And let me tell you this. If your do not make your child’s digital life stop on a dime the first time something happens? You’re cooked.
This is not the time for understanding, coddling, or anything else other than unadulterated consequences. For me, that requires smashing the phone with a hammer. That’s it. Done. There have got to be consequences within your home. If your child knows the rules and breaks them, feel free to break the phone.
I agree with Busman’s point that :
Social media may not seem important to you, but it can seem like life or death to teenagers.
My response? Your child broke the family contract. If their digital social life is so critical to their well being, then they should NOT have broken the contract. When are your children supposed to understand actual life consequences if you don’t provide them in the home? The real world is NOT going to be filled with calm and understanding: police officers, prosecutors, landlords, or even in-laws.
Sexting is not alcohol, it’s not drugs, or even sex – which could potentially be “dabbled in” as a course of becoming an adult; a sort of “learning lessons” along the way.
If you do not provide these consequences at home your local prosecutor and online sex predator would be more than happy to do so in your place. But I promise you, you won’t like the results.