In the previous blog, I talked about Simple Communication Techniques On How to Talk to Your Teen About Sexting. With those tips you can begin to navigate awkward conversations related to sexting and sexual health. Furthermore, you can communicate with your teen without lecturing, blaming or yelling.
But what if you find out that your teen has already made some poor decisions with their cell phone? Remember that your child’s brain is not fully developed until almost 26. Their decisions are sometimes impulsive and not well thought out. It is our job as parents to help them exercise the critical thinking part of their brain. Here’s how.
I found nude photos on my teen’s phone! Now what???
Process your own feelings first. You may be furious, griefstrickend, shocked, anxious and more. Allowing yourself to experience these emotions without pouring them on your child is a must. Remaining calm and clear-headed when you approach your child for this very important conversation. It’s you and your teen versus the issue of sexting. Not you versus your teen!
If you find sexually explicit photos, videos or messages on your teen’s cell phone, the first thing you should do is to calmly approach your teen and have a serious conversation about it. Communicate with your teen without shouting or blaming. You can start off by saying “there is something important I want to talk to you about”. If you start to lecture, you will lose them. Be mindful that a conversation goes both ways. Ask them questions and be ready to listen without interruption. Remember validating their feelings does not mean you agree with their behaviors.
Many teens get sucked into the desire to fit in. This could be the driving force behind your teen partaking in these risky sexting behaviors. For example, your child may argue that receiving and sending nude photos of peers from school is acceptable because “the other teens are doing it.”
Have your teen delete the inappropriate picture or video from all devices. Remind your teen that it is never ok to keep or share sexualty explicit photos or messages online.
Ask your teen…. “how would you feel if this happened to your sister, cousin, or a best friend?” Encourage them to talk through how they think their sister/cousin/friend would feel if it happened to them. Moreover, allow them to sit with trying to understand what they think the person might experience at school or home once the picture got out and shared.
Get Everyone On Board! Communicating as a family.
Having solid family communication is key. Everyone’s opinion should be respected and heard within the family without interruption, shouting or blaming. You want your teen to come to you if they are receiving or being asked to send nude photos.
Be a good listener when your teen approaches you. Keep calm and figure this out together. They will have questions, and as parents, you want to give them the best advice possible. Sending and or receiving nude photos of minors is illegal. These types of issues can turn into something very dangerous. You want to develop trust between you and your teen so they will come to you first.
Tips on good communication within the family :
- Show empathy when your teen comes to you with a problem.
- Validate their feelings rather than trying to come up with a solution to the problem.
- Having the same expectations on other family members living in the home like younger or older siblings.
- Tap into what your family values are. Explain what the expectations are when it comes to sending or receiving nude or inappropriate photos.
Have your teen’s back. It is important that teens know that you as the parent, have their back. Teens can have a hard time approaching their parents when they know they might be in trouble. It’s important that your teen know that you will be on their side no matter what. Even if they made a bad choice, a poor decision, or succumbed to peer pressure. You want them to come to you. Helping your teen navigate through those tough times without blaming or shaming will strengthen your bond. Your teen will feel a sense of connection and that you do have their back. And that trust means everything to them. It makes them feel safe and secure.
Praise good decisions. You think they might not need it, but they do. There is never a cutoff age for praising good behavior! Find specific situations where you can to let teens know how proud you are of them. Like when they say no to a friend who is requesting sexts. Or when they give another friend good advice on dealing with sexting. Whenever you see them make good choices or come to you for help, let them know how proud you are.
Praise when your teen comes to you. If your teen approaches you with a problem, praise them by saying “I’m proud of you for coming to me with this problem. I know that must have been hard for you.” This should be especially true when they’ve gotten themselves in a bad situation. Praising that your teen came to you, does not absolve them of the responsibility of poor choices they made. It just provides them with some respect for the good choices they did make.
Show me the facts!
Sharing local news articles and laws in regards to sexting can be helpful when having conversations about sexting with your child. You can bring it up at a time when you’re doing something together, like having dinner, washing dishes, or riding in the car. Your child is smarter than you think. Be prepared with research and real life situations that can help you illustrate the consequences of sexting and inappropriate virtual behavior.
Requests to send sexts
Teens may feel pressure from significant others to engage in sending sexually explicit images or videos. Again, communication is key. Explain to your child that someone who is requesting that you send explicit photos of yourself is not demonstrating appropriate friend behavior. Remind your teen of the legal risks and serious consequences that sexting can cause. Think before you text.
Role play texting scenarios with your teen. Have a couple of good texts responses ready for the requester. One scenario would go like this……”
- Peer: “Hey….if you really liked me you would send me a photo in your underwear”
- Response: “don’t be weird” or “I’m into you but not into that” or “Are you trying to get me arrested?”
- Peer: “Hey…..what are you wearing right now?”
- Response: “Jeans and a T-shirt. It’s so comfy!”
Work with your teen to come up with responses that feel natural to them. Having a healthy sexual boundaries can not only help keep your teenager safe, but it helps them feel a sense of pride and self efficacy.
Make sure your teen knows that there are people online who will trick them into sending explicit photos and blackmail them into sending more.
While this is a scary thought, it is a scarier reality. Many teens aren’t prepared and then continue to send the photos to keep the situation quiet. Your teen needs to know that if this happens to them, they must come to you immediately and you will have their back.
Having these types of conversations can help parents and teens connect with each other on a much deeper level. No matter how uncomfortable a topic may be, communication is the key! If you are having difficulty communicating with your teen about their online activity or you feel it’s interfering in their life, reaching out to a therapist specializing in teens can help.
Check out the whole series:
- 5 Things for Parents to Consider about Teen Sexting
- Simple Communication Techniques on How to Talk to Your T(w)een About Sexting
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