While many people will disagree with my views on this subject, I maintain that sexting today is wrought with similar issues of teens and sexual activity.
- It is hard for them to say ‘no’ because it is new and exciting just like any sexual activity. Our response is ‘just don’t do it’ and that doesn’t win many arguments in the parenting arena. I’m not saying it shouldn’t, but it doesn’t. We need to find a way to address the issue on their level and listen more than we talk. Remember that the current statistics indicate that about 70% of sexting is words. So about 30% is the part that we as adults jump on about it being a federal offense and will be posted online to haunt them forever. Now…flirting (especially graphic flirting) needs to be addressed and can have serious consequences, but that should be addressed differently than pictures.
- They see it more like kissing. It doesn’t have consequences to them like sex. It is much harder to tell a person you like that you won’t kiss them verses having sex with them. I don’t agree with this belief, but it is where many of our teens are.
- Adults do it too. Again, not an excuse, but if you read many blogs about ‘spicing things up in your adult life’, sexting will be part of it. So building on the above, maybe one appropriate way to deal with teen sexting is to talk about how and when to do it appropriately. Granted in a relationship that just started between two 14 year olds, that will be ‘not appropriate’, but that same relationship 4 years later, flirting over their main mode of communication is inevitable.
- This is an issue for both sexes. Boys need to be taught to be gentlemen. Old word I know, but you can exchange it for respectful if that works better. Teach them to not ask for these things and not to pressure. For girls – don’t send them. Remember that some girls are sending them without being asked.
- Talk to your kids long before it begins. If you wait until they are in a 2 month relationship (a long time for teens) then it is similar to waiting until after pregnancy to talk about sex ed.
Parenting is hard. It takes a lot of time and energy. More than many of us seem to have at times. Learn about their form of communication. Use it. And engage them.