Technology can be a parent’s worst nightmare.
Don’t get me wrong; I love smartphones, laptops, tablets, and all that jazz. But if not monitored correctly, these useful tools can become a source of much grief for families as more and more teens and pre-teens (and even adults!) engage in potentially destructive behaviors such as “sexting.”
Am I exaggerating? Am I blowing the issue out of proportion? Maybe, maybe not. All the time I see stories such as this article involving a 31-year-old man texting inappropriate images and messages to a 15-year-old student, or articles describing high school and middle school students spreading nude photos of each other on their phones.
These kinds of reports lead me to think that the issue is very real. I am sure most parents would agree that they do not want their teenagers and middle schoolers sending or receiving sexually explicit text messages (especially if predatory adult men are thrown into the mix).
GuardChild reports that 39% of all teens, including 37% of teen girls and 40% of teen boys have “sent sexually suggestive messages via text, email or instant messaging.” In addition, 48% of teens report having received sexually suggestive messages.
On top of all of that, teens have their own texting lingo that can make it impossible to decipher what they are actually communicating when you look at their messages. What is a parent to do?
- Don’t freak out!
There is no need to turn into a paranoid psycho-parent. Just because a lot of teens are doing it doesn’t mean that your teen is doing it. Take a deep breath and make informed, rational choices.
- Check what your teens are up to on their electronic devices.
School Resource Ofc. Casey Frazier of Lafayette, Indiana, says, “You’re allowed to search your kid’s cell phones, their tablets, their rooms. You need to do that. … Do that as part of parenting, especially since we live in a digital age.”
Don’t feel guilty checking up on your kids. You are the parent and you are responsible for their behavior.
- Be as informed as possible.
Use the resources in front of you. There are dozens of internet sites (such as noslang.com and netsmartz411.org) that help you understand texting lingo and answer any other questions you might have about your teenager’s means and methods of communication.
- Keep communication open.
Have open dialogue with your kids and make sure you listen with an understanding ear. Let them know you love them and do your best to always be available to them, and warn them about the potential dangers, as well as the legal ramifications, of sexting. (But never be their “friend” at the expense of being their parent.)
- Maintain correct priorities.
Remember that the priority is not to “save face” or to avoid conflict or embarrassment. Your priority and mission should be to parent your child – not to protect yourself from unpleasant situations.
Navigating the world of technology with your teens can be stressful, but your kids need guidance. Don’t you want to be the one to give them that guidance?