Photograph for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Pexels
Raging hormones and a curiosity to explore their sexuality, combined with the 3 000 text messages children send on average per month can land your teenager in trouble.
Sexting, the act of sending, receiving or forwarding sexually suggestive or explicit messages via mobile media, is becoming an increasing trend among youngsters and a growing concern to parents.
Victimisation by aggravated sexting can have far-reaching consequences, according to Unisa senior social work lecturer Dr Anri Adlem.
“Sexting is a relatively common occurrence among teens, with one in four adolescents receiving ‘sexts’ and one in seven sending them.”
The act can leave children feeling embarrassed or humiliated.
“Children may be afraid to go to school because they don’t know what people are going to say to them regarding a sexting incident,” said Adlem.
“The child needs to remember once images are sent electronically, you no longer have a choice about who sees them.”
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Adlem said, as the parent, you have the power to keep your child safe.
“You pay the cellphone bills and own the phone and it is your responsibility legally, as well as socially and emotionally, to protect your child,” she said.
“If fear is keeping you from monitoring your minor son or daughter’s cellphone, the consequences of that decision will also fall on you.”
Here are some things for parents to look out for:
– Children might become overly protective of their cellphone to the point of grabbing it away from you or sleeping with it under their pillow.
– They insist on texting with friends from a private place or turn their back to read or send a text when someone comes near.
– They become uncomfortable, angry, or defensive when you question them about their secretive phone use.
– Their grades change. Grades may drop as risky behaviours edge out day-to-day responsibilities.
– Friend changes. If you check your child’s social accounts and notice an increase in flirty photos and language, or friends who do the same, it could be a sign of risky digital behaviour.
Adlem urged parents to review their children’s texts and to follow through on a set of consequences if sexting is an issue.
“Remind your child that sexting under the age of 18 is considered child pornography,” she said.
“Also, if the issue continues, call your cell provider and have texting capabilities blocked from your child’s phone.
“Do not ever think your child will not get involved,” she warned.
Adlem and Centurion ward 69 councillor Cindy Billson will host a workshop on sexting at the NG church in Eldoraigne on 20 July.
The workshop will start at 18:30 and is available to parents and children above the age of six.
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