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“Sexting” on Cell Phones

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<!– Teen Trends Newsletter - Discover the latest teens trends before they happen! –><!– Stacey DeWitt on Real Parenting –>
Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 | CWK Producer

“They’re taking shots of people in the bathrooms or at parties, people doing certain things that they wouldn’t want to know if they were not under the influences of certain things.”

– Taylor Boggs, 14 year old

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According to 17 year old Emily Greene, “People have been taking pictures of girls or guys naked.  And they are putting them on the internet and stuff like that.”

Now kids are sending those photos over their cell phones.

“Well, kids will just like put them on the ground and girls will walk over them if they’re wearing a skirt and they’ll take a picture of it,” says Reece Boston, 16. He also says, “I think there are girls who are aware of it, actually. I mean there are girls who’ll go to school and not have any underwear on …it’s really kind of sick.”  

Nude photos will embarrass themselves and their family and they may well be illegal – experts say that’s what kids need to hear loud and clear from their parents.

“Parents have 100% of the power, “says psychologist Alduan Tartt, Ph.D., “because most kids won’t admit that they listen to their parents, but what you say to them in an exchange of information is really what they need.” 

Some educators and child psychologists recommend that part of the agreement to buy a cell phone for a child should be the parents’ right to check the phone for suggestive pictures.

High school curriculum director Bobby Macris adds, “Ultimately it’s the parents decision… so if they think it’s
being abused, like anything else … like a car or whatever, they can just take it away from them.”

But some experts argue the real issue is that, in a very sexual culture, too few parents talk to their kids about sex … and too many educators teach only plumbing, all which leaves too many kids on their own.
 
Gail Elizabeth Wyatt, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA says, “We’re concerned about their behavior, we certainly don’t want them to be sexually active, we don’t want them to think about sex, and yet they’re exploited daily by the things they see, by the music they hear, by the clothes that they’re reinforced to wear. And they are very poorly guided by parents, by our society, their religions, and generally by everyone that they meet except each other. “

What We Need To Know

Should teenagers be allowed to have camera phones? The wireless industry is hoping parents will say “yes.” Experts say teenagers have become the cell phone market’s fastest growing demographic group. A study by the market research firm Cahners In-Stat Group predicts the number of young cell phone subscribers will explode to 43 million by next year. That means half of all teenagers will own a cell phone, and three out of four will use one, many of which will have cameras built in to them.

Research shows parents are often willing to pay for the cell phone to keep track of their kids. However, parents need to be mindful of the downsides of having camera phones, such as spying on other people, dangerous pranks, etc. Teens, on the other hand, told researchers they use phones mostly for social purposes – and they want more colorful and interesting cell phone options.

The best way to prevent your teenager from using their camera phones in inappropriate ways is to set ground rules and expectations in every area of their life, starting when they are young. If they have a good grasp of right and wrong, it should apply to every area of their lives, including their use of camera phones. Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., has developed guidelines to follow to monitor your teenager and to keep a closer eye on their behavior.

  • Get to know the parents of your children’s friends. This is absolutely the most important thing you can do if you want to have access to your children’s world. When your teen begins to “hang” with a new kid, get the phone number, call the parents and introduce yourself. Make a point of giving the child a ride home so you can walk up to the door and shake the parent’s hand. As soon as the kids start making plans to get together, touch base with the other parent to exchange information about rules regarding curfew, acceptable activities and supervision. Responses will range from relief that you are as concerned as they are to resentment that you expect parental support and involvement. Parents who are like-minded are going to become part of the support system that keeps your children safe. Parents who either don’t care where their kids are or who think it’s absolutely fine for them to be unsupervised aren’t going to respond well to being asked to be responsible. You may be dismayed but at least you will know where you stand.
  • Communicate regularly with those parents. When teens make plans that involve staying at another teen’s house or getting rides to events with other parents, make sure that you have a parent-to-parent communication at some point in the planning process. Make sure that it is really okay with the other parent that your child is sleeping over. Conversely, make sure that the other parent knows if you are driving their children or dropping them at an event. Again, check for agreement about the level of supervision.
  • Establish the “Three W” rule. Teens need to tell you where they are going, who they will be with, and when they will be back. This is not an invasion of privacy; it’s common courtesy. Adult roommates generally do the same for each other. You don’t need minute details, just the broad strokes of what is being planned for the evening. If something comes up, your child can be located. People engaged in “legitimate” activities don’t need to hide their whereabouts.
  • Respect privacy, but refuse to accept secretive behavior. It’s important to your teen’s developing sense of independence to have some privacy, but he or she must learn the difference between privacy and secrecy. Your kids do have a right to talk with friends privately, to keep a diary and to have uninterrupted time alone. But if your teen starts being evasive – get busy. Calmly, firmly, steadily insist that you have a right to know who their friends are and what they are doing together. Talk to teachers about who your kid’s friends are as well and start to build alliances with their parents.
  • Talk regularly with your kids about their choice of friends. Kids often don’t realize that they’ve fallen in with bad company. They like to think that they see something positive in a kid that everyone knows is bad news. They may be drawn to the exotic, the different, the risky. They are teens, after all! And part of the job of adolescence is learning how to judge character. Keep lines of communication with your child open so that you can talk about their relationships.
  • Support your child’s positive involvement in a sport, art or activity. Generally, kids who come through the teen years unscathed are those who have a passion about something and who develop a friendship circle around it. This could be the football team, the dance studio, the skateboarding club or a martial art dojo. It really doesn’t matter what it is, but what does matter is that you get involved. Provide rides. Watch practices, games and performances. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time or money to let your teen and his or her friends know that you care. Bring the whole team popsicles on a hot day or hot chocolate on a cold one. Let your child – and his or her group – know that you are willing to put your time, money and energy into supporting healthy activity.
  • Help your child get a job. If your child spends too much time at loose ends and doesn’t have a sport or an activity, at least get him or her working. A job teaches life skills, eats up idle time and helps kids feel good about themselves.
  • Act swiftly and certainly when something unacceptable happens. Your son isn’t where he said he would be? Go find him. Your daughter’s friend invited a boy into the house when she thought you had gone to sleep? Get dressed and take everybody home. Your kid comes home drunk? Put him or her to bed for the rest of the night, but deal with it first thing in the morning. Be consistently clear, kind and definite in response to unacceptable behavior and kids will see that you really won’t tolerate it.
  • Model adult behavior when you are in conflict with your teen. Whatever you do, don’t yell, threaten, preach or “lose it” if you don’t like a behavior, a friendship or how your child interacts with you. You will render yourself totally ineffective with your teen. Your child will take you far more seriously if you insist that the two of you focus on managing the problem instead of yelling at each other.

Resources

  • National Safety Council
  • AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
  • Progressive Phone Safety Tips

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