Just after I wrote my entry on A Parents Guide To Sexting And Texting, I got am email from a parent who wanted to share her teen's texting story. I thought this would be an instructive follow-up. This boy is a 14 yr old 9th grader. Definitely not a kid who is actively engaged in a whirlwind social life. He had gone to school and forgotten his cell phone, not unusual, according to his mom. He is not attached to his phone, and does not spend hours texting away to friends. Because the mom was the opposite of suspicious, since her son spent so little time on his phone, she decided to look at his messages, more out of curiosity than worry. Boy, was she surprised. There in black and white was the following message: " Hey whore sexy bitch, you must be from Ireland cuz my penis is Dublin." the person on the other end of this text response was : "oh my gosh, I can't believe you wrote that. I am dying right now!" You have to admit, an "adorable" play on words.
As you can imagine, this mom, was shocked and chagrined. When her son returned home she asked him about this text. Here is what this mom did right. She did not yell and berate her son, or in anyway antagonize or put him on the defensive. Yay!!!! She calmly and without judgement simply told him what she had found on his phone. His first reaction as you can imagine was "why did you look at my phone?" And she calmly responded; "well honey, it is really my phone, and now that you are in high school I just wanted to make sure that there was nothing on the phone that could be unsafe or a problem, and in fact, I'm glad that I did, cause this text is unsafe and could be a problem." Her son got it and let that piece go. Again she asked so what is with this text. He laughed and said that a 7th girl who this mom knew, had taken his phone during study and was playing around with it. Because this boy is so not into his phone, he never bothered to ask her what she was doing. The mom said that this is very in keeping with her son. The girl I should mention, is a bit out of the mainstream. She is somewhat socially awkward, and doesn't have many friends, and often behaves in a way that can garner her some attention.
Here is what I think happened. I think she wrote the sext on this boy's phone and sent it to herself, as if he had written it to her. Then sent a response back. I am guessing that this girl wanted to have a sexy text on her phone that she could then show around to other kids as a sign that a boy likes her. I can imagine that there are some eye rollers out there, as in "oh sure he didn't write it, good ass-covering move." But I know this mom, and this kid and I do believe that this is how it went down. The great news is that this mom and son had a great talk about phone ownership responsibilities, about how this girl's mom could find this text on her daughter's phone, and be very upset and call the school principal, or his parents. He had never thought of this stuff and truly was grateful for her help. She let him know that periodically she would be checking the phone. He was fine with that.
Here is the important take away from this story. You never know!!!!!!! Always better to be safe than sorry. Feel free to share this story and texting message with your teen. A real story is always better than a made up story. Texts and sexts can be found by parents and other authority figures who might not be happy having these kinds of messages and pictures on their teen's phone. You need to reinforce the message that if what they write is NOT something they would say to their friend in person, it SHOULD NOT be on their phone, no matter how funny or cool they think it would be. You need to really hammer in this point with an I get it message; "Honey, I get it is fun to get attention from boys/girls with sexy texts, and that it might make you look cool and funny, but it can get you into trouble, and I need to make sure that you don't get yourself your into trouble. I would hate to see you embarrassed and humiliated by something that started out just as joke."
Go do some story-telling!!!!
PS and here is a bit of Joani-live in case your school/community/work place might like me to come and do my seminar.