When speaking with parents, most feel so out of touch with the speed at which technology and Social Media is advancing and it concerns them greatly this lack of knowledge could be putting their child or teen in danger in the ‘cyber-world’.
From gaming sites, online forums, apps, and the usual Social Media platforms it understandably becomes almost impossible to keep track of everything their child or teen may be involved with.
And what tends to happen in many households is the usual…
- parents want to know
- child/teen doesn’t want to share everything
- parent becomes suspicious
- child/teen clams up and thinks their parent is invading their privacy
- then the usual battle of wills and emotions ensue without any resolution.
The child/teen upset… the parent even more concerned.
So what is the answer parents ask me…
Education and Emotional Resilience
I say this because there’s just no point in pretending it’s a phase or one of those fleeting Social Media crazes. We have to get real – for kids growing up today, it’s a part of life they’ll be faced with at some point (similar to drugs and alcohol awareness). We hope not at too early an age as they lack the maturity to deal with such a complex situation.
Being informed about what sexting is, how it comes about and why your child may be encouraged (or be the encourager) to share such intimate images is the first step to develop open family discussions around the topic. It also demonstrates to them, you’re ‘in-the-know’ and that in itself is important. Parents who are more informed and openly chatted with their child/teen about this have reported their child has confided in them about certain situations. We live in a world where everything is on show (excuse the pun!) so the more open we can be about this and the dark sided implications of actions cannot be underestimated.
Through the media and social networks, young people are being conditioned to see images, with a lot of flesh showing. A quick scroll through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook (and even LinkedIn?!) shows more flesh than clothes. You may choose to label my comment as prudish or old-fashioned but surely there needs to be some standard of decency for our young people to follow. Even some of the judges on ‘Family TV programs’ have their boobs practically on show!
A recent focus group CHAMPS held on this topic for ages 11-16 concluded with the general group consensus…
“If Kim Kardashian can do it and the whole world can see, what’s the problem me sending a private text or message, no one else is going to see it?”
The case in point about immature thinking, where young minds lack the right tools and resilient mind-set to manage such complexities.
Having practised and taught Mindfulness for many years, both to adults and children, what I find interesting is the parallels with how young people live and how it relates to sexting situations. Young people are often the most Mindful of us all, they live in and for the moment, not considering the true implications of their actions or the far-reaching consequences in the future.
The results of the focus group really emphasise this point – they’re only thinking about now, not in the future. Usually one of the main areas CHAMPS helps young people with is to manage the ‘What If’ cycle of worry.
And in this instance (as there are many contradictions in life) we must consider the ‘What If’ cycle…
- What If the person you send this to shares it (even though they promised not to)?
- What If you fall out/break-up and they use it against you (even though they promised it was deleted)?
- What If it gets picked up by trolls and haters?
- What If your School/College or future employer sees it? (Employers are increasing using Social Media to find out about future employees!).
And the education with them about future implications can really help their understanding, knowledge and encourage them to make informed and sensible choices, not that of pressure or manipulative control or under the illusion people keep their word. I’m not saying we have to be mistrusting or paranoid, but be rightly cautious and ask bigger, better questions.
Peer pressure is nothing new, all generations to varying degrees have experienced it – but now it’s gone to a whole new level “Pic Pressure”. This is often missed on a conscious, intellectual level for young people. The constant text cajoling, and at the same time friendly encouraging is a disastrous mix and the very reason why more fall into the trap.
Helping your child grow in strength of character to strongly say no (and maybe have to deal with a short-lived hassle) now is going to serve them in the long-term. Try this exercise with them…
Back to the Future – The Interview
Imagine your child is the Interviewer and you’re sitting in the interview (this is the best way for role play to avoid any ‘parent stereo-type’ to come out!). They start asking you questions and then ask you to explain why a half-naked image of you has been found when they search on your name!
- How would you feel?
- What would you say?
- Do you think you’d get the job?
Young people easily trust and their brains aren’t fully developed to think through all the implications. Everything is fun, exciting, a new adventure to explore and maybe even rebel against as they figure stuff out and become more independent. The screen provides a false sense of security and rational thinking is distorted or non-existent.
Do Something To Change Things!
CHAMPS offers coaching to help children and teens develop specific strategies to cope with cyber-bullying, sexting and social media anxieties. We teach them how to become assertive, confident communicators and develop an assertive mind to overcome manipulative and controlling requests for ever more daring and sexual texts.
Contact us for more info and receive your Free Social Media Survival Plan.