Leaving work today, I noticed a red faced reporter on TV scaring parents about children using their phones to send naked images of themselves to their boyfriend, girlfriend, and classmates. The headline suggested a cabal of children scheming against parents to send naked pics to the world and grave warnings of secret apps loaded onto kids phones diabolically loaded just to ruin our days. The headline screamed “Child Sexting Epidemic!” and focused on a story of 100 children in one school who had been exchanging naked photos of themselves using an photo vault app designed to look like a calculator.
But, aha! It isn’t a calculator at all, but a cleverly designed app that allows children to send naked photos to everyone. The reporter and congenial “technology safety expert” recommended parents everywhere snatch their children’s phones and examine them for this app and any other that might lead to a career in pornography. Because, as they say, “Everybody is doing it!”
I’ve got news for you. There are probably hundreds of apps and many more that are coming out daily designed to covertly send and receive information on a cellphone. So many, that if you worried about it a little, you could spend hours and hours monitoring your children’s cellphone activity. Helicopter parenting at its best. Don’t worry though, if you don’t helicopter parent your kids, the school will probably pay a lot of money to bring an assembly in to scare the kids later.
The question I have is this: What kid wants to show their naked body to the world? When I was in middle school or high school, I was so body conscious I would blush if my underwear band was showing when I sat down. The next question that comes to mind is are our children really this morally bankrupt?
The answer: No, but I think parents who teach their kids that sex is ok with everybody and allow their kids to date in 5th grade are stupid.
I realize there are plenty of parents out there who let their kids do whatever they want and don’t monitor any of their children’s activity – at all. While I don’t believe in helicopter parenting, I do believe in regular, old fashioned, I’m there for you parenting.
In today’s world, our children need us to teach them about the good, the bad and the ugly – there is a cost to ignoring all the issues swirling around in our confusing culture.
While in the 70’s my parents did not talk to me about sex. They figured the less I knew the better because what I didn’t know, I couldn’t do. Mores, morals, and the culture have changed dramatically in the past 30 years since I was in high school, and for the sake of our kids, we cannot ignore these tough issues. This has caused me to parent very differently from my own parents.
It’s called leadership. Instead of being afraid of offending my kids, I set the pace and let them know my expectations and where we are going as a family.
We shouldn’t be talking to kids about sexting when they enter middle school, but rather, we should be continuing the conversations we’ve been having about their body from when they were 3 and 4; how it is wonderfully made, and how their body is private and worthy of being saved for their future mate. Sex education shouldn’t be led by strangers, but by trusted parents over the course of one’s life. The conversation we should be having when they are young is that it isn’t ok for people to ever touch them in the private area, take pictures of them without clothing on, or for anyone to request they take a picture and send it over the internet. What they learn when they are little extends to when they become older.
I think the conversation about sex should start around age 9 or 10 – not the full bore informational evening download never to be discussed again that we experienced. I’m talking about a continuing conversation using today’s topics as dinner conversation starters.
These can be really revealing, and as long as you don’t freak out about what you hear, your kids will learn to trust you as someone who has been around the block and can offer valuable advice about how to handle tough topics they have to grapple with through their lives. These have led to wonderful conversations that allow us as parents to share struggles we had in high school with peer pressure, what to do when they are in a jam, and assurances that we will be there for them when they have a problem in their life that seems overwhelming.
Concerning this cleverly named practice of sexting (kind of cute, right?), I think parents should be very direct. In addition to the risk and likelihood of everyone seeing their privates, simply taking a picture of a minor child, even if a selfie, and dissemenated to another minor child is a FELONY. It is a practice, if done, will require the juvenile court to charge both parties involved, and could result in being removed from the home, given an orange jump suit, and placed in the custody of the state in a juvenile facility.
Kids need to be reminded regularly that what goes on the internet, even in a stealthy app, is always on the internet in somewhere in some server, being viewed by who knows who FOREVER.