Sexting involves sending explicit text messages and nude photos to friends and sometimes total strangers. Notes Joy Ong, a senior counsellor and play therapist, “Over the past years, as more youths socialise via the Internet and online apps, we’re observing a rise in youths who try sexting.”
While reported cases of sexting involving Singaporean youths aren’t as common as in the US or UK, Shem Yao, a senior TOUCH Cyber Wellness coach, points out, “We shouldn’t assume that our children aren’t engaging in some of these behaviours.”
“We shouldn’t assume that our children aren’t engaging in some of these behaviours.”
Yao adds that the issue’s sensitivity is probably one of the reasons why sexting-related cases are under reported. Victims of sexting cases often feel anxious, ashamed and depressed once they are outed and often suffer cyberbullying, too. They also risk being ostracised and having their lewd images reposted everywhere.
So, to ensure your child doesn’t suffer such an unnecessary and ugly fate, you must talk to junior about sexting. Make sure you talk to both your daughter and son as boys are just as likely as girls to be engaged in these behaviours. Follow these expert-approved suggestions when broaching the subject:
1) Ask them what they know about sexting
If you think that broaching the subject directly with junior is awkward and embarrassing, then refer to a news-related story instead. Ask them if they have read it and what their thoughts are on the topic. It’ll give you insights on how to change their perception of sexting.
Alternatively, Ong suggests starting the conversation with general but related topics like cyber safety and asking junior how they keep themselves safe online. “This provides a natural flow to the conversation and also allows the parents to assess their child’s knowledge and awareness of cyber safety.”
2) Talk to them about the qualities of a healthy relationship
Remind your child that in a loving relationship, it’s never appropriate to harass or embarrass their partner or be on the receiving end of such actions. Discuss what they think are the appropriate ways of showing care or love for someone. Then stress again that sending a nude or sexy photo to a boy or girlfriend is a no-no.
Ong advises that you talk to your child about the concept of — both physical and emotional — safety in a healthy relationship. “It is also very important that children are aware that they can always talk to a caring adult if anyone makes them feel unsafe in any way.”
Also suggest how they can handle it when the relationship breaks down. Tell your kid that it’s wrong to post anything online in a fit of anger. Urge them to walk away and cool down, so that they don’t do something they’ll regret.
3) Tell them it’s not cool to sext
No matter what their friends may say, sending nude pictures or forcing others to do the same isn’t cool nor is it an acceptable behaviour.
Urge them to walk away and cool down, so that they don’t do something they’ll regret.
4) Tell them about digital permanence
Remember anything that’s posted on the Web stays there forever — there is no way to remove the content permanently or have control over who sees or downloads it.
5) Advise them to protect their image
Smartphones and social media makes it all too easy for your kid to throw caution to the wind, snap photos and share them without second thoughts. Help junior think about the impact when their image falls into the wrong hands. So, before they take a suggestive photo, they should consider:
* Is this how I want people to see me?
* Could someone use this to hurt me?
* Would I be upset if they share the image with others?
* What’s the worst thing that can happen if someone else sees this?
6) Urge junior not to pass on information mindlessly
Facing immense peer pressure, your child may find themselves sharing information without considering the consequences of their actions. Remind them not to share something that could hurt someone’s reputation. Ask them to consider the following questions:
* Did the person in the photo mean to share it?
* If it came from someone other than the sender, did they have permission to share the picture?
* How would you feel if someone does the same to you?
Explain, too, that forwarding or keeping sexts is unlawful. Any person found to be in possession of or distributing pornographic material can face a hefty fine or jail time.
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