Sexting: A Hot Topic for Kids and Parents
Definition of sexting: the transmission of photographs of private body parts, people engaged in sexual acts, and graphic, tawdry sexual communication via cell phones and personal computers.
It is as old as time and first raised its ugly head in the Garden of Eden: taking good and using it for evil that is. Just like Satan himself, the perversion of good into bad can take credit for most of the heartache in our world.
If you are like most parents, you got your child a cell phone hoping that it would help you keep in touch and in control of your child as they operate in our busy, cyber-driven world. Never did you imagine that this same object of parental care could be the portal for such sexually degrading and dangerous activity.
As parents, we can learn from the past as we navigate the future. What we don’t want to do is fall victim to the two most common mistakes when it comes to the distortion of good. First of all, don’t be surprised. It happens all the time. If you were blindsided by this new perversion of sexting, then you need to turn off the reruns of “Little House on the Prairie” and sit down in front of “The Modern Family” for a few hours. For every good application of technology, there are going to be 10 twisted applications.
When you handed your child a cell phone, you pushed him over the threshold of your protected home into a cold, heartless universe of unsupervised and uncensored options.
The “server” on his or her cell phone can be very self-serving. As we have already seen through the rapid development of new technology, the sky is the limit when it comes to what can be accessed via cyber space.
The second most common mistake when it comes to parents responding to this whole sexting phenomena is we get so focused on the horror of the problem (pictures of your teenager’s body parts, pictures of them or their friends involved in sexual acts, and a lot of degrading **##@@%%), that we fail to move on to the solution. Use the reality of the problem to start a dialogue about the solution, not to build a movement against this new form of an old evil force lurking in cyberspace.
This perversion of good has been going on since Adam and Eve appeared on the scene, and the solution is the same today as it was back in the Garden of Eden.
God looked at their sin and the consequences that it required, and instead of throwing up His hands and saying, “Wow, I never saw that coming. Now what am I going to do?” He instead sought them out and offered them a relationship — one that would change their hearts even within a corrupted world that would not be changed.
It is the same with our kids. Their world of technology and access to all kinds of evil is not going away. It will not get better. It will not change. What can get better is our relationship with them as parents. What can change is their heart and desire for evil.
We need to concentrate on being attentive, involved, grace-based parents who walk them through the valley of the shadow of cyberspace and help them come out on the other side as responsible young people who resist the urge to create and send this kind of sexting crud and refuse to entertain the images and vulgarity sent their way.
Here are some practical steps you can take to discourage irresponsible use of technology, including sexting:
- Keep computers and gaming consoles out of their bedrooms. If they are repeat offenders, take away their cell phone. (Don’t worry; they’ll survive!)
- Know your kids’ passwords and user names. If they refuse to give you them, lock them out of the computer and only let them access it when they’re doing homework in your presence.
- Make being their friend on Facebook a requirement.
- Be very clear and straightforward about what is and is not appropriate conversation and behavior online whether on their computer or phone.
- Make the consequences of abusing their privilege of having access to the computer and phone very clear and the carrying out of these consequences swift, memorable, and consistent.
- Paint the very dark but accurate future that can be waiting on them because of their poor choices (i.e., being a registered sex offender for life, employers looking at social networking as part of their background check, and their reputation with people who really matter and care about them).
And don’t forget the golden rule. “He who owns the gold makes the rules.” You are the parent, and you have every right to have access to and control over your child’s Internet accounts, social networking pages, and cell phones. After all, you are paying for them. If they’re minors but wanting to pay for their own phone, refuse to co-sign on their contract if they have a track record of sexting.
Here are a few thoughts that Tim included in the excellent chapter entitled Little House on the Internet from his book “Little House on the Freeway”:
Ever since someone mouthed the first cussword, God has assigned parents the job of showing their kids how to sift through the detrimental banter that often clutters the lives of people committed to being the salt of the earth. The best way to protect our children from these things is to teach them how to harness the infinite power of God’s presence in their hearts to do the right thing – whether it’s refusing to respond in kind, or choosing to stay out of chat rooms, or gravitating toward different friends, or ignoring and deleting harmful text messages…..
God calls us to instill that power in our children over the duration of childhood. The best way for them to gain this ability is not from lectures but from our example, modeled under pressure. Our kids need to see us defaulting to God’s power for victory when we are weak, when the pull of the world, the flesh, or the devil is intense. Our transparent walk through our struggles as well as theirs will do far more than a piece of software ever could. Dr. Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, 2008.
When it comes to the call of the wireless, you can run but you can’t hide. Neither can your kids. Don’t be blindsided — anticipate this problem. Don’t get hung up on the whole sexting stuff — but be proactive with a solution. Build a strong, grace based relationship with your kids, be their example of victory over evil and pray with them and for them.
You can do it and God can help.
Darcy Kimmel has a heart for encouraging and equipping women to maximize their unique callings in life. Her greatest joys come from her own relationships. Darcy and her husband, Tim, have a passion for family and together founded Family Matters, a ministry dedicated to “equipping families for every age and stage of life.” Darcy speaks with Tim around the world regarding marriage and parenting issues and has co-authored several books and video studies with him on parenting, grandparenting, and family relationships. Darcy also writes a quarterly column of encouragement and advice in Family Matters’ e-newsletter, Heart of the Home, and weighs in regularly on the Family Matters Blog.