I love teens! I love to hang out with, speak to, write for, and mentor teen girls. Part of being able to speak and write to them involves knowing what is going on in their world. I thought that you, too, might benefit from understanding today’s culture, so I’ve decided to start using our times together on Wednesdays to share with you and hopefully help you as you invest in the lives of the teens in your world.
I recently wrote this article for a publication. I thought you might enjoy it too!
Concern seemed to spill from the girls’ lips as I heard their discussion developing in the back seat of the car. “You’ll help me as I confront her, right?” “Right.” Obviously, there was something happening in the lives of these seventh grade girls, causing them to be acting more like adults than ‘tweeners. Not wanting to pry, but feeling I like should be in the know, I continued to do the Mom Ease drop. “She said the pictures weren’t of her. They were of someone else, but why would you have pictures like that on your own phone?” Disappointment and sadness began to flood my heart. The world of sexting was crossing over into my child’s borders.
Sexting is one of the newer battlefields we are now calling to fight upon for our children. Sexting is the new name for the act of sending, receiving or forwarding naked photos via your cell phone.
“According to the results of a survey released today by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com, 22 percent of all teen girls – and 11 percent of teen girls ages 13 – 16 years old – say they have electronically sent or posted online, nude or semi-nude images of themselves. What teens and young adults are doing electronically seems to have an effect on what they do in real life: Nearly one-quarter of teens (22 percent) admit that technology makes them personally more forward and aggressive. More than one-third of teens (38 percent) say exchanging sexy content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely and nearly one-third of teens (29 percent) believe those exchanging sexy content are “expected” to date or hook up.”
Since one teenager in five reported having sent or posted naked photos of themselves, it is very likely that some of our children are caught into this trap. But like me, you are probably thinking, “No way, not my children.” Unfortunately, it is more common than most of us would ever want to believe and I, for one, don’t want to be caught off guard.
I’m the type of mom who would rather face things head on; get it out in the open and talk about it. Knowing this as well as the fact that I like to keep up on the latest things teens face, my fifteen year old daughter called me to check out a tv program. She was flipping through the channels and found a talk show that was hosting a panel of teen girls and their moms. Their topic: sexting. Hoping I might gain some insight into the how’s and why’s of this new rage, I invested the next hour of my time.
As I watched, I looked over the girls on the show. They didn’t look rough or harsh. In fact, they looked a lot like any girl I would see at my daughter’s school or in our church. Then, I began to listen. “I liked being told that I was beautiful.” “The boys finally started to pay attention to me.” “I really don’t see it as that big of a deal.” My heart sank. It’s the same old trick from our enemy, Satan; he has just used a new means. Girls want to be valued. They want to know that they are beautiful and wanted.
I used the opportunity to once again instill in my daughters the truth of who they are in Christ. They have Someone who tells them that they are beautiful; their Creator. He is paying attention to you; every minute of every day. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. When we use them in ways He didn’t intend, it is a really big deal! I reinforce these truths by having framed pictures with verses and sayings hanging in their rooms. My prayer is that when they are doing their homework, talking on the phone or straightening their hair, these verses will remind them of just who they are.
I also remind them of the practical consequences that take place when we choose not to follow His ways. Many children do not realize that once a photograph is on a cell phone, it can be put on the Internet where access is unlimited. Not only is this a problem for the morality of our children, but what they may not know, is that it is against the law. Our children can be caught in a web that they did not create nor want to be a part of simply by being a recipient of an unwanted picture. Our children need to be reminded that one unwise decision can have a lifetime of repercussions.
So what is a parent to do? In my home, we removed the ability to access the web and the transmission of pictures from their cell phones. This way our children cannot send nor receive photos that they didn’t asked for.
For some of us, these discussions can be so uncomfortable. I mean, how do you go about bringing up a topic like sexting when you don’t happen to have a tv show as a door opener? I asked my daughter for her advice. “Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just talk about it in a normal voice or as you would anything else. It is really common in a teen’s life. If you make a big deal about it, they won’t want to talk about it.” (I guess what I tried worked! She didn’t know how much I was upset. I had just tried to keep a calm voice and chat while out for a walk. I’ll be sure to try that next time!)
Don’t be afraid to talk about sexting with your teen. If you don’t bring it up, someone else will. Show your child you care by entering their world and addressing the hard stuff. You’ll be glad you did and even if they don’t tell you, they’ll be glad you did too!
Have you run into this problem with your teen? If so, how did you address it?
Since teens can delete photos as soon as they are received, how can we know if our child is involved in this activity or not?
Let’s help one another help our kids!