Tito de Morais, The Internet Safety Guy, recently said in a forum, “Kids that are at risk offline will be at risk online, as questionable conduct in the physical and digital world is not mutually exclusive.” After collaborating on several other articles, including the “Cyber-Shield” series, I was thrilled to be a part of Sue Scheff’s most recent contribution to the Huffington Post, Sext Education: Sexting = Cyberbullying. Together, we believe in making a difference by educating students, teachers, parents, and communities about cyberbullying prevention.
In the recent article, we discuss the implications of sexting among teens, and how sexting and cyberbullying = are essentially one and the same. Because of the evolving nature of the online realm, sexting isn’t just confined to text messages: teens are able to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social networks to spread sexually illicit messages.
Parents and other adults can make a difference when it comes to building awareness of sexting’s dangers, and it all starts with having the “sext chat” with your children. Here are five tips to get this conversation started:
- Start talking: Use current news stories to spark conversation with your kids. Make it relevant to their lives. A recent journal Pediatrics study on teens that sext is a good tool to review.
- Just do it: There might never be an optimal time to get the gears moving on the sext talk, so it’s crucial to hunker down, move past any embarrassment, and bring up the topic.
- Make it real: Pose the question, “How would you feel if your grandma or grandpa saw that picture message?” We’re all accountable for our actions online and off, even though that notion slips by many teenagers these days.
- Address peer pressure: Emphasize that it’s OK for your child to be their own person and not worry about what their peers are doing, especially in regards to sexting.
- Give them control: Encourage your children to make the right decisions when they receive a sext. They have the ability to stop the communication right in its tracks.
Now that sexting has extended its bounds from cell phones to social networks, take the time to check out MySecuritySign’s excellent #TakeNoBullies digital responsibility and anti-cyberbullying resources that tie-in directly to sexting.
Contributor: Mike Miles formerly managed social media at SmartSign, a New York City based ecommerce sign retailer and creator of #TakeNoBullies, an anti-cyberbullying and digital responsibility campaign, through its site MySecuritySign. Mike is passionate about writing, digital citizenship, and advocating for a safer internet.