It’s a topic that no parent really wants to think about - let alone explain to their child. But, whether you like it or not, ‘sexting’, and sending nude images via social media and messaging apps, are now common facets of modern teen interaction.
It doesn't follow that your children will post pictures of themselves online or that all kids are doing it. However, given that they are probably well aware of this activity, it is important to discuss with your children the risks associated with this kind of online sharing as well as the perils of forwarding nudes that have been posted by others in addition to their own content.
A new guide from Meta has been released to assist parents in having awkward conversations with their children about these risky behaviors and the important themes that should be emphasized during these conversations.
Every essential component is covered in the overview, including this vital note of relief for parents:
“The good news is that research shows a lot fewer teens send intimate images than you might think – as few as one in ten. Researchers in Canada have also found that more teens have received intimate images than sent them, so it can seem like a more common activity than it really is.”
Again, just because there is a lot of talk about sexting doesn't indicate that everyone is engaging in it. According to Meta's guidance, this is an important message to drive home to your children. Or as our mothers would have said 20 years ago; “If your friend jumped off a bridge - would you do it too?”
“The most important thing to tell our teens is that it’s not true that “everybody’s doing it.” You should also tell them never to let anyone pressure them into sending an intimate image.”
The manual also discusses how to tell teenagers to delete such stuff if they ever come across it as well as the wider effects that connecting with it can have, even if it is shared by another person.
What do we think?
The teenage years are really a blur of uncontrollable emotion, undiagnosed fear, and anxiety - and hope for what is to come. Being a parent means protecting our children - if we don’t, who else will? Part of that protection means letting them - and encouraging them to find themselves, think for themselves - and ultimately, protect themselves too.
Childhood is fleeting. Before you know it, your little cherub has entered the dreaded teenage years, and it all happened while you blinked. As if the standard ‘sex talk’ isn’t daunting enough, today’s parents are faced with even more complicated - and relatively uncomfortable conversations. The scariest part of all of this is that these conversations don’t actually happen in the teenage years. They happen - or at least, should happen much - much earlier.
We spoke to one of our team members who is a mom to an almost 9-year-old, and she had this to say:
“When I was growing up, the sex talk was always dirty - almost frowned upon. As a teenager, this inevitably led to unnecessary, and somewhat dangerous curiosity. Sure, the conversation is uncomfortable. No one truly wants to speak to their children about sex, online or otherwise. The point is, that we should be doing it. And we should be doing it when we feel the time is right. If that means educating your 4 -year old on appropriate bathroom etiquette, or acceptable nudity levels - or your 8-year-old about what it means to protect themselves in an online world, where predators are waiting at every digital corner - then do it. Don’t leave it to someone else, no matter how awkward you feel. Initiating these conversations with our children now leaves the door open for deeper, more meaningful conversations about safety at a later stage.”
So - while it’s great that Meta has released this guide - they shouldn’t have had to.