If I've told you once, I've told you a million times, do not take naked pictures of yourself in the bathroom mirror and send it off to a boy you think is your "boyfriend." This week is current events week. The newspapers seem to be filled with cautionary tales for parents of teens. Yesterday sleeping with a cell, today, taking naked pictures with a cell. This article should be a required family reading event. Perhaps at the dinner table, when you have their undivided attention. There is nothing like the real deal, reading a first hand account of a story that though your kids might deny they feel any connection with, has probably to some degree happened with someone they know.
Here is the link:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/us/27sexting.html?_r=1&emc=eta1
In short, a 14 year old girl decided to go into her bathroom, take off her clothes, aim the camera on her phone into the bathroom mirror where she could take a picture of her naked body. Feeling satisfied with the pic, she sent it off to her "boyfriend." I use this term loosely. Middle school relationships have the shortest shelf-life of any relationship known to mankind. Days later, the "boyfriend" decided to break up with this girl. After the deed was done, he showed the picture of his "ex" to an ex-friend of his ex-girlfriend. Are you following me here? This girl, after feeling somehow slighted by this ex-friend, sent the following text which captioned the naked picture of her ex-friend. "Ho alert! If you think this girl is a whore, then text this picture to all of your friends."
As you can imagine this picture spread like wildfire, not only through this middle school but also to the other 3 middle schools in this suburb of Olympia, Washington. But the story gets worse, because everyone of those kids passed on the picture and text to all of their friends, it just keeps on going. Fortunately, somewhere along the line, a parent who had been monitoring their kid's texting saw the picture and the authorities were contacted. They traced the origin to the ex boyfriend and ex friend, who ended up being led out of school in handcuffs, and into juvenile detention. Their future is unclear. There have been many mediation sessions with all involved, but for the girl whose naked body was streamed out there and beyond, it will never be over. Deciding to switch schools to start fresh this girl was recognized as the naked picture girl, and it started all over again for her.
This is scary stuff. Three young teens lives have been forever changed. Teens do not think through consequences. They live in the moment, and if that moment is powerful and awesome, and no one has drummed it into their heads that sending naked pictures, receiving naked pictures and them sending them on to a cast of thousands is illegal, immoral, hurtful, and life-altering, and not in a good way, they will just keep on doing it. Your kids need to hear this message over and over and over, using stories, newspaper articles, and most importantly monitoring. Forget the issue of trust. This is not about trust or privacy, it is about temptation and safety. Here is your 'I get it moment' using the story above: "I get why this girl sent the picture. I get why the ex boyfriend showed it around,and I get why the ex friend thought it would be funny to send it out worldwide. I get this could happen to you. I need to make sure that you do not unknowingly get yourself into a situation that could end up like any of these kids. Maybe you have a crush on someone, maybe you are mad at one of your friends, and you might do something without really thinking it through. My job is to help you with this stuff. So for now, every now and then I will ask to look at your texts and pictures. I get this will feel invasive, I really won't read them that carefully, I just want to make sure there is nothing that is sexual, threatening, or hurtful. Most kids leave their phones places where someone can read them, thats how kids get in trouble. I love you and I want to make sure you are safe.
Remember that they way kids learn is through repetition. You can not have "the talk" and expect that they will "get it" They have to be reminded constantly. Do not be deterred when your teen tells you that are boring, and stupid. Somewhere in that brain of theirs you are making a dent.