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Friday, August 12, 2016

Talking to Tweens About Sexting, "Nudes" and Privacy

Recently, I heard an interview with author Nancy Jo Sales regarding her book release - "American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers."  Much of her material is known already by antidotes and general assumptions, but the details and numbers to which she refers are staggering.  A majority of girls are being asked for "nudes" and there are social consequences to saying yes and to saying no.  My children haven't encountered this yet, but I decided it time to start the conversation.

We have had difficult conversations before.

So, as we went about our preparations for heading back to school, I talked with my ten and twelve year olds about online safety.  It's a different conversation for girls than it is for my guy and already I notice different gender-related behavior.  My girl wants to look good online.  She is more about what she posts and how she looks.  My guy is more of a consumer and seeks stimulating material.

My guy says the other boys at school talk about what movies they have seen this summer, including suggestive parts.  Then he wants to look those up online.  He needs to know that I'm monitoring his online activity so that he knows he's not on his own out there.  I reminded him that it is his job to guard his eyes and to walk away when conversations turn inappropriate.  This year, the school issues laptops and I wonder how much "looking" will be done during the school day.

My girlie watches and creates amateur music videos.  He profile is darling and her songs are sweet.  Yet I know the same app hosts less uplifting material. She needs to know that I'm monitoring her online activity so that he knows she's not on his own out there.  We discussed how cute her videos are and that I like seeing what her friends and cousins post, but a quick search shows that some put up content that is inappropriate.

Electronic access is so complicated. There are so many good things along with fun ways to connect to friends and family.  Yet the darker and sinister aspects are always lurking and little hearts aren't prepared for the onslaught.  It's my job to prepare them.  Today, I'm revising our online/screen policies since summer screen strategies have faded into a new school year.  This week, I'm talking about access, accountability and responsibility that goes hand in hand with privileges.

The first exposure to inappropriate online material usually happens between ages 8-11.  It happened in my home and I'm doing all I know to protect and eliminate the risk without totally eliminating access.  My children need to learn what to do if they see something while they are still home with me, because once they are out from my protection they will be confronting with a great deal of confusing material.  I want to be the one to shape their views on sexuality, privacy, and modesty.

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