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Sexting: Tips to Help Your Child Avoid the Menace

Sexting: Tips to Help Your Child Avoid the Menace

Ololade Hector – Fowabaje

Some teenagers send sexually explicit messages to flirt with someone they like. In some cases, a girl sends an explicit photo of herself because she is pressured to by a boy and sometimes, the boy forward shares with his friends to entertain them or retaliate after a breakup.

Whatever the cause, a teenager armed with a phone can get into a lot of trouble, and in the click of a button, lives are changed forever.

Would my child do that? Well, with the popularity sexting has assumed, it should strongly be on your radar as a parent. As a preventive measure, adopt the following tips:

Set Clear Rules
Although you cannot fully control your teenager’s phone use, you can make sure that he or she knows your rules—as well as the consequences for breaking those rules. Remember, too, that as a parent, you have the right to monitor your teenager’s phone.

Help Your Teenager Discuss The Problem
You could use a news report to start a discussion. For example: “I read about a girl whose explicit photo was forwarded all over her school. Does this kind of thing really happen?” Then add, “There are many opinions as to what constitutes sexting. How would you define the term?” “What kinds of photos do you think are inappropriate?” “In some places the law considers a minor who sends a nude photo of a minor to be guilty of a crime. Do you think it’s that bad?” “Why would sexting be morally wrong?” Listen carefully to his or her reasoning and correct wrong assumptions and beliefs; help your teenager think beyond the send button.

READ ALSO: Is Your Child a Pre-teen? Find 9 Things You Should Know

Appeal To Your Teenager’s Moral Sense
Ask questions such as these: How important is a good reputation to you? What traits do you want to be known for? How would you feel if you humiliated someone by forwarding an inappropriate picture? How would you feel if you took a stand for what is right? Help your teen hold a good conscience.

Think Beyond The Send Button
Role playing and similar “what if” exploration are opportunities that communicate parental concern and practical coping strategies can function like a vaccine or inoculation, strengthening kids’ self-esteem and their ability to successfully fend off unwanted or unhealthy attention. Useful role playing will go beyond simply teaching kids to say ‘No!’, and additionally help children practice responding to seducers’ (or predators’) further manipulative taunts and shaming tactics.

For instance, a boy who is being pressured to have unwanted sex might be told that his refusal to participate means he must be gay.  A statement like this is absurd and manipulative. Most adults would brush it off without a second thought. However, to a young and inexperienced child, a comment like this could be devastating. Helping children know how to respond if accused of “being gay” (where “gay” is intended as an insult and a shameful state of affairs) may help them to be less swayed by the manipulative intent of that remark.

Manipulative remarks which children may hear from peers in relation to sexting  and ought to know how to respond to include, “If you loved me, you would do this,” or “If you don’t do this, I won’t be your boy/girlfriend anymore.”
You could also say to your daughter: “Suppose a girl is being pressured by a boy to ‘sext’ him. What should she do? Give in so that she does not lose the friendship? Refuse the request but flirt with him anyway? End the relationship? Tell an adult?” Help your daughter to reason on the matter. Of course, you can use a similar approach with a son.  When they have been prepared in this manner, their assertiveness would be greatly enhanced.

Finally, by seizing teachable moments and structuring weekly chats, we need to effectively counter what society is hammering into the minds of our adolescents. If the dominant message our children are hearing is that teen sexuality leads to romantic love, popularity and celebrity status with very little (if any) public or personal fallout, they will continue to push the proverbial envelope, and the line between right and wrong in this area will be increasingly obscured.

Cultivating in them a deeper measure of self-respect, for example, is an effective way to insulate them against participation in sexting and help them to stand firm when faced with very strong peer and cultural pressures.

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