How Celebrities’ Stolen Pictures Can Help You Talk to Your Teens About Sexting

Janell Burley Hofmann, November 04, 2014

  1. The recent celebrity picture robbery involved adults. Adults can choose to have naked pictures or not — “should or shouldn’t” can be part of your lively family discussion, but robbery is not a natural consequence of having naked pictures.
  2. The celebrities were invaded and violated. Privacy is a major factor here. Stealing is also a major factor here. And viewing is supporting.
  3. So what does this have to do with everyday non-celebrity, non-adult, typical teenagers? It can build a bridge for communication. It’s emotional, feel it! Talk about it! Even if your answers are messy and imperfect, it’s a perfect chance for dialogue.
  4. Teenagers are not adults and should be educated and informed about sexting just like we would about drinking, drugs, speeding or other safety, health and overall wellness discussions we would have with our children. “Sending or receiving pictures is not acceptable. But just like (insert typical teen behavior) it might happen and here are our family’s thoughts on it.”
  5. Another key idea to mention: “I am here for you no matter what.” Take tech and tech mistakes out of isolation.
  6. In one way or another, sexual picture taking and sharing is against the law if your child is a minor. And the laws are new and fluid and shifting. It’s hard to know exactly how authorities (or other involved families) will handle it. Let’s avoid finding out.
  7. Pictures stored on your phone or computer are not safe from deliberate or accidental sharing. Imagine there is no such thing as “private.” Think billboard.
  8. Sharing with “someone you trust” is risky and sharing and spreading pictures and videos is common. No one that really cares about you will ask, coerce, beg you to sext. Even as an offering of relational intimacy, in many ways, it still isn’t “safe” sex.
  9. It’s normal to feel curious, thrilled or excited about the idea of sexting. Pause. Breath. Step back before you send. “Do I really want to share this?” Feel and think the answer to that question.
  10. Pictures and videos have permanence. It’s hard to track where they have gone and to make them disappear once they are sent. You can’t “take it back.” And there’s no true deleting.
  11. Teach your children to be “share stoppers.” If a picture is received, it is not to be passed on. Mantra: The “share” stops here.
  12. Male or female — don’t assume someone wants to receive a naked pic of you. It can be an intense experience to see your lab partner’s genitals appear on your device.
  13. Say this: Do not participate in rating games, anonymous accounts or “likes” competitions (sexual or otherwise).
  14. Do you feel like your teen is “gateway sexting” with a shared pic that makes you stop and think? That’s a great opportunity to talk. Even if they freak out on you, this sentence can move mountains: “I care enough about you to have this conversation.”
  15. Be honest and vulnerable enough to tell your teens that this is new for you too! Tell them what scares you and what you’re worried about. Listen to them. Find your way together.

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