Quick Interview with KVUE about dangers one Austin child faced by friending a stranger on Whisper
May 14, 2015
Sexting is More Prevalent than Parents Realize
May 1, 2013
We sometimes believe that a bad behavior gives us insight into a bad person or flashes a light above their head warning us to stay away. I wish it were that simple, but it's not when it comes to children. I mean children in the sense of everyone under 21.
I have loved reading Dr. Daniel Siegel's book Brainstorm - the Power of the Teenage Brain. It's a whole new way of realizing what motivates teenagers and also how they lack decision making skills. It focuses on the creative limitless vantage point teens have and allows us to see this time of life as purposeful to human existence or future generations.
How can I now apply that wonderful research and logic to...uggg...sexting? Labeling a teen for a bad decision of hitting send can be a lifelong mistake. I urge parents to figure out what is on their kid’s phones and ask questions way past their own comfort zone. If parents find something that shocks them or simply surprises them on their child's phone, it will only become a teaching tool or game changer IF they remain as calm as possible and go to the core of 'why" the teen thought their actions were "okay" or "lacked forecasting of consequences." I have personally wanted to scream "Dear Lord - what were you thinking?" or "You've got to be kidding me, I'm a counselor and specialize in digital safety. Haven't you listened to me?" Luckily, I haven't shouted these lines one millimeter iinto my children's ear, but I have almost tripped over that fine line. I've have thankfully, remained calm and tried to listen to the experience of my child when they've posted a careless remark and then we have gotten down to business with our house consequences or how to repair the situation. This hasn't been one conversation, but a series of several - not repeating the issue - but building on the conversation of what to do next.
I worry about sexting specifically since I hear much about it and have witness my clients struggles with this issue. It's a lonely game. Kids can find themselves with no one to trust. I guess the most shocking discovery for me, personally, is that the kids that are posting nude pictures or risqué images, are not kids I would've guessed. Falling in love does something silly to all of us and or dopamine levels, however, falling in love or wanting attention and using sexting is a dangerous game. Kids know how to hide apps on their phone or download apps that hide pictures in calculators, plus kids know other little tricks of cropping pics to distort the image viewed by scrolling through a camera roll on a device. It's larger than sneaking off with the national geographic magazine from my day. It's all about curiosity initially, but when peers are seeing revealing images of other peers, then we have an obvious violation of online and personal boundaries.
I hope that more parents will see the necessity to be more familiar with their child's phones and stop acting like they don't want to invade a child's privacy. I suppose when the policeman at the door greets a parent unexpectedly one day due to the parent's phone reportedly containing child pornography (because the teen copied a friend's picture that the friend's girlfriend sent him and then it was uploaded to the parents phone via a cloud app) then, yes, then we might see more parents begin to understand that privacy is a family matter and not a child's burden to bare alone.
What's on your child's phone? Are you brave enough to ask or look and help them? I hope so. Can you remember to be compassionate and supportive? If you feel overwhelmed then get a professional therapist to assist you and do all that you can to help your child find a better way to explore who they are.