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Sexting has become common and we need to address it as part of our larger, ongoing conversations about sex and relationships. Jason and Lexi meet at a party. The next day Jason and Lexi periodically exchange various face pics of sassy and cute expressions via Snapchat- the Snapchat version of flirting. Lexi sees Jason snaps, waits two minutes, sees he snaps again, waits two more minutes and then opens his two snaps at the same time. Today, most adolescent girls are steeped in a culture that hyper-sexualizes bodies, glamorizes hooking up without emotional connection, and encourages casual relations and relationship building through digital devices.
It is important, now more than ever, that we engage in ongoing conversations with our children about sex and relationships. We need to talk to them about what they see, hear, and feel, and guide them towards healthy relationships grounded in authentic connection built through shared, real-time, in-person experiences. We also must help heighten their awareness of, and provide strategies for, navigating the cyber landscape so many of them are exploring.
As we approach these conversations with our girls, it is essential to remember that adolescents need an environment free of judgement, guilt, and ultimatums if they are going to share with open honesty. As parents, we are most effective when we lead these conversations with real information, empathy, and curiosity. Not necessarily. And saying no is more complicated than parents may think. Young people are developmentally programmed to seek the acceptance of their peers and in many instances socialized to value themselves based on the attention they receive from others.
Many of our girls are socialized by the greater popular culture to protect the male ego, never emasculate a boy, and to avoid rejection as well as vulnerability. Research by Common Sense Media found that teens who watch stereotypical gender representations in the media are more likely to value masculine than feminine traits, have more tolerant views of sexual harassment, support the belief that women are at least partially responsible for sexual assaults against them, and use media representations of romantic sexual relationships as their own expectations for exploring sexuality with others.
If we only put a hammer just say no in the proverbial toolbox, we limit the options they have when trying to navigate the complexities of teen world, especially human relationships. Instead of advising your daughter to just refuse such interactions, help her navigate them in an ethical, age-appropriate, and realistic way. Natalie snaps a pic with a quarter of her profile, and a bare shoulder with a bra strap sliding off. Trevor snaps an above-angled selfie in the mirror with just his boxers and a brief snap video of himself rubbing his crotch.
Natalie snaps a pic back of herself in the mirror in just underwear with her hand cupping her breast and covering her nipple. Some teenagers find themselves swept up in a dynamic similar to the above. The images and banter represent a sexual flirtation and a game of response. Because girls can pause to figure out what their response will be, they also feel a sense of control and security. Of course, in the back of their minds, many also know that the digital world is not private and that images can always be screenshot, harbored, and forwarded later.
Trevor and Natalie are sexually curious about each other and their actions reflect negative cultural norms of objectified and commercialized sexuality, and the misconception that relationships can be authentically built in cyberspace rather than in person.
Our girls should have those direct and assertive refusal skills in their tool box. However, we need to also provide more nuanced ways by which our girls can diffuse such situations, and refuse a picture or sexual text while still saving face. The social dynamics can be complex and our girls need help navigating this tricky terrain.
When talking to girls who are attracted to and interested in other girls only, or in addition to guys, they will tell me:. However, other girls share:. You could start by sharing this article, or at least some of the above scenarios, and discussing them with your daughter. You could ask questions like, for example,. However, they also need to know that taking and sending nudes under the age of 18 is a federal offence, and can carry real consequences. The federal government considers taking, sending, and forwarding nudes as the trafficking of child pornography, even if you are taking and sending pictures of yourself.
States have created teen sexting laws that address this because federal law can be severe in how it impacts a young person. Those sexting laws vary from state to state. Even if your girl is 18 or older, there is a privacy issue at stake. A smart phone with a camera is different than a regular camera. It is also important to remember that there is a false sense of security when sending anything over social media.
Has your child read the Terms and Conditions of the Snapchat or Instagram s they set up? The reality is that nothing that we send belongs to us. Autonomy is an important aspect of healthy sexuality. It means we get to control our own narrative. When we lose that control our images can become objectified.
And when anyone is solicited for nudes or sent a dick pic without asking, it may qualify as sexual harassment. My future partner? My future boss? My future in-laws? Once you send something out into the digital space you lose control and ownership of it. If you feel empowered with body pride and want to own that, keep it for yourself and those you choose to share it with in person. Substantive dialogue with your girl that is informative, supportive, and non-shaming will encourage sexual agency and empowerment.
Be clear about your family values as they relate to healthy relationships and ask questions that provide guidance. Take her through a critical thinking process with questions to teach how to assess risk and anticipate consequences.
You may discover that she sends nudes despite these conversations, so consider ahead of time what kind of consequences you are prepared to impose. As parents and caretakers, it is our job to set limits. Be clear and concrete when you communicate your expectations. Think about what the age-appropriate consequences may be. If you decide consequences are appropriate, they should align with the infraction that evoked them, for example, losing phone privileges for a reasonable amount of time. You may also want to consider how you would respond to finding inappropriate sexts to your daughter from someone whose parents you know.
Would and should you tell them? How would you engage in a productive conversation? How would your daughter feel about that and how much influence would she have on how you decide to exercise your adult responsibilities? Each situation will reveal itself differently. Think about various scenarios and how you would respond constructively. Afterall, we are asking this of our daughters, so we should take the responsibility to do it ourselves as well.
It will be the quality of her relationships. Conversations about activities like sexting, and the reasons, realities, and implications of such behaviors, will help her understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like —and the risk of letting social media take the place of genuine human interactions.
Shafia Zaloom is a health educator and consultant whose work centers on human development, community building, ethics, and social justice. Her approach involved creating opportunities for students and teachers to discuss the complexities of teen cutler and decision-making with straightforward, open, and honest dialogue. In her twenty-five-year career, Zaloom has worked with thousands of children and their families in her role as teacher, coach, administrator, board member, and certified outdoor educator.
Zaloom is currently the health teacher at the Urban School in San Francisco, and she develops curricula and trainings for schools across the country. She lives in California with her husband and three children. Pre-order here:. Indie Bound. Visit shafiazaloom. Media Parenting. Disclosure: the links to buy or download books may contain affiliate links. There is no additional cost, and Girls Leadership may get a commission if you click through and purchase. Can you recommend books to read WITH my daughters? They hear things differently coming out of a book or from another adult than they hear coming from their mother.
Thanks for this very interesting and informative article. The school year book recommendations are launching in September. Being a devoted Mom of three girls, 18, 15, 11, I find your above article deeply supportive. Jason : when can I see you Lexi : haha whenever — wb next weekend? Jason snaps a quarter face in the bottom right corner of the screen. Natalie : hey wu Trevor : nothing wbu Natalie : homework Trevor snaps a pic with his shirt off Natalie snaps a pic with a quarter of her profile, and a bare shoulder with a bra strap sliding off Trevor snaps a mirror pic of his abs. What are your options as a parent trying to advise and support your child?
from Girls Leadership on: Media Parenting Disclosure: the links to buy or download books may contain affiliate links. Cj Reply. Name required. will not be published required.Snapchat teen sexting
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