Teenagers are going to talk about sex. They’re going to kiss, they’re going to have boyfriends and girlfriends, some of them are going to have sex, but they will all talk about it.
And there’s a whole new thing that exists now that did not exist when parents of teenagers were their age— sexting.
I’m not saying that as adults we’ve never sexted. In fact, if you haven’t sent your significant other a dirty message, go ahead and do that right now. Because it’s fun, easy, and consensual, not to mention a great way to add a little spice to your life.
But the problem with sexting and teenagers is that teen relationships aren’t meant to last. Teens are supposed to date and hang out with a lot of different people. Teen relationships are almost always destined to fail. And for the most part that’s a very good thing. It teaches heartbreak management, independence and resilience.
But ending relationships can also breed resentment, hurt, anger and rage. And that’s where screenshots come in.
Screenshots are forever. When you’re a teenager nothing seems like forever, and so screenshots don’t seem all that permanent.
The conversation you need to have isn’t JUST about not sexting. It isn’t JUST about not sending dirty pictures to others.
The conversation you need to have with your teen about sexting is about what happens if they DO it.
Kids make mistakes. And no matter how many times we, as parents tell them NOT to do something, they don’t always listen. And, the problem with making a mistake like sending sexy texts is that if they DO send them, then they need to let you know.
Why should your child tell you if they send a nude picture?
Several reasons, the first is, people are going to use it as blackmail. When teens send these pictures they don’t understand the kind of leverage they are giving over someone else, but there are other teens who WILL use those pictures against them. If your child feels comfortable telling you they sent the pictures and that someone is holding them over them, then they take some of that power away.
The thing you want to make sure your kid knows is, if they do make a mistake, then it’s okay to tell you. That they won’t get in trouble for what they’ve done and that there is no punishment from you for doing this.
This isn’t something you are telling them they can’t do and will punish them. Sexting is something you told them not to do because you are trying to protect them, and if they DO make the choice to sext, then they need to be able to come to you so you can try and undo what has been done.
This is SO hard for teenagers and it’s a hard conversation to have.
It goes something like this. “Whatever you do, don’t send dirty pictures or text messages to anyone.”
“K…” (trust me, there’s going to be an embarrassed “k” here.
“But, if you do send them, it’s not the end of the world. You need to tell me as soon as you can so we can take care of it.”
“Wait, but you just told me not to send them?”
“Yes, but if you do, then we can fix it. Do not try to handle the situation yourself.”
“Yeah, I know what I said. Don’t send nudes. If you do, we can fix it. So don’t keep it from me.”
And that is the conversation we need to have with teens about sexting. I know it’s hard, and I know it sucks, but DO IT.
Your kids are depending on you to be the grownup here.