Concerned parents all over the globe are trying to figure out what to do to protect their children from the temptations that exist in cyberspace. The smartphone has become a tool that this generation of teens and tweens are using to explore their sexuality and to flirt with their peers. Flirting, while a seemingly innocent behavior, has taken on a new form; sexting. This has many parents concerned, and in some cases, it has kids and parents in legal trouble.
One in five teenagers said that sexting, which is defined as transmitting sexually explicit photos, messages, or videos through the internet or smartphone, is a normal part of being a teenager. More alarming is the rise in middle school-aged children sexting, with about 5 percent of 6th through 8th graders admitting to engaging in this behavior. Kids as young as 11 years old, taking naked photos and sending them to their boyfriends and girlfriends?
The time has come and parents need to be more involved.
Also on the rise is the devastating act of revenge porn. Revenge porn is exactly what it sounds like. Kids who want to punish an exboyfriend or girlfriend, or to embarrass a classmate, will use a nude photo once shared in a seemingly private relationship, as a weapon to shame or humiliate another.
Imagine if your 15-year-old daughter broke up with her boyfriend and weeks later found a picture of herself in her most vulnerable and naked state, posted to Instagram? The consequences are devastating, both for the victim and in many cases for the perpetrator.
Revenge porn is illegal in 35 states in the U.S., and in many of those states, the consequence for sending or possessing a naked photo of an underaged child can be time spent behind bars.
Not My Kid? Then Who’s Kid Is It?
Parents often believe that conversations about the risks associated with sexting are enough to prevent their child from doing it, but the statistics tell a different story. The pressure to do ‘what everyone else is doing’ is often too intense to override a child’s logical brain, and despite a parent’s best effort to educate, kids will still grab their phone and take and send compromising photos.
As with all things online, nothing is guaranteed to just disappear. The consequences of sexting can negatively impact your child beyond their high school years because photos can continue to circulate online, making them available to potential employers, and college admissions officers. Possession of child pornography is a serious offense, and because you own the phone, parents can be on the hook for legal issues, as well as running the risk of child protective services getting involved in your life.
Situations like these can be avoided by using the smartest parenting tool available, Social Judo.
Powered by IBM Watson, Social Judo sends alerts directly to a parents smartphone about the things that are of concern today. For example, if your child is experiencing cyberbullying, talking about suicide, or googling Jihadism, parents can now simply get an alert, which creates the parenting moment needed to step in and to parent your child.
Social Judo also has a unique feature which detects nude photos and pixelates them, making it impossible to see any nudity. Imagine that? If you are using Social Judo, you won’t have to worry about your child sexting.
Sexting can have negative psychological effects on your child throughout their life cycle. Many kids report a deep sense of shame and humiliation, which is often difficult to let go of. Your child’s social reputation will guide their social experience, and if they are deemed a ‘slut’ by their peers, this can change the trajectory of their high school or middle school experience.
It only takes a minute to look up the research on sexting and kids which has proven that the consequences, in fact, do follow kids into adulthood. For example, teens who sext are four more times likely to experience physical violence as adults, are twice as likely to develop a problematic relationship with drugs and alcohol in adulthood and are three times more likely to have self-esteem issues in adulthood.
The time has come to parent our kids in the space they occupy most. We need to protect our kids from themselves until their brains are fully developed and their decision-making skills are guided more by logic than by emotion.
Social Judo makes it easy to parent your child’s smartphone, gives your child room to make mistakes, and also lets parents step in when those mistakes could have longlasting negative consequences.
Andrea Difilippo is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, nationally recognized parenting expert and Chief Parenting Officer with Social Judo.