If you haven’t heard by now, a Colorado High School is on lock down regarding sexting images of inappropriate nature which were passed throughout the school like wildfire via ghost apps (apps disguised as normal apps). The most disturbing part is that more than a few were caught. In fact, they are stating it might be at least a hundred students involved. It is now a criminal investigation, charging students with possessing and distributing child pornography
The other concern for parents is the increasing number of teens who use code to send private messages to other teens about sex. Parents are shocked at what they are finding on their teen’s phone. To make matters worse, it leaves the door open for pedophiles and porn pimps to gather this private information that could place a teen in very serious danger.
If you think this is happening only in broken homes, think again. It is happening among families of all faiths and economic status. This issue is very serious as it has been acknowledged that this form of crime is skyrocketing, not just with teens but pre-teens as well.
Why are the parents not involved?
- They are not tech savvy to understand the use of their teen’s phone
- They would rather be in denial than to face the truth of what their teen is doing
- They truly trust their teen because their teen hasn’t done anything to cause mistrust
- Parents go on the teen’s phone but do not know what they are looking for
- They think their teen is smart enough to not get involved in sexting/nude photos
Let’s face it. If you as a parent fall under any of those reasons, your teen is most likely sexting and sending nude photos. And if they aren’t, they definitely know someone who is. Sadly, too many parents leave the control to the teen. With a teen’s hormones at their highest peak, they are a prime target to this type of sexual exposure.
Teens also do not understand the severity of their actions. Sending nude photos is a crime. Sending sexting messages to encourage sex with a minor is a crime. Teens also believe that they will not get caught. In one aspect they are right. Many apps make it easier to hide a teen’s indiscretions from his or her parents. It can be hidden behind a calculator app or an app that parents would never think to investigate.
But let’s get past the whole “app” world for a minute. There is a deeper problem here. If a teen is sexting and passing porn images back and forth, that speaks to some serious behavioral issues.
Here are some of the reasons why teens do it –
1. Peer pressure
3. Low self-esteem
4. High self-esteem
5. Body issues
10. Showing Off/Attention
It doesn’t matter what category your teen is under. The fact that they are doing it at all says there’s a problem that needs immediate help.
How many parents actually sat down with their teen to discuss this? Most likely there is a significant number that have not talked to their teens. Teens live in their own techical world and go at speeds beyond what any adult can keep up with. As a parent however, you must be diligent and vigilant to keep up. You MUST learn everything there is in keeping your teen safe.
Is it time consuming? At first. But I promise, you can know the tricks of the trade just as much as anyone else. There are so many tutorials on YouTube to understand your phone, how apps work and what ghost apps are.
Consider these rules to keep your teen from sexting and nude photo sharing.
1. Absolutely no phone in their bedroom at night and no phone in the bathroom at all. This is when most of the activity is done, behind closed doors.
2. Know the contacts on your teen’s phone. Who are they, how old, and if you can, meet them in person before allowing them on the contact list.
3. Find out about the apps on your teen’s phone – do your own research about how safe they are and what the app is all about before they decide to download it.
4. If you ask for your teen’s phone and they refuse, they are hiding something – pictures or messages. Time out for the phone. If you’re not sure what’s on there or how to get access, take it to the store of where it was purchased and have them help you search through the phone. *Note: You cannot do this if the phone was bought by the teen. The store will not help you. But there is of course, YouTube tutorials to help you figure it out.
5. Google your teen’s name – You’d be surprise how much information you can find and what you wish you didn’t see but need to. If there is anything inappropriate, there are consequences. If it’s not that big of a deal, warn them but educate them to the dangers of posting things on the internet.
This is just a start. Parents must be active in the affairs of their teen’s life to keep them safe. Young teens are devastated to find out that their nude pictures passed among friends are now on a porn site. In some cases it is too hard to find and sometimes difficult to remove.
So what do you do if you find that your teen has done the unthinkable?
Breathe! You will be upset, angry, shocked and disappointed. Don’t react right away. Do take the phone away. Give yourself 24 hours to cool down and think about the best action to bring correction, consequences and safety.
DO NOT DELETE any pictures or sexting messages. They can be used as evidence. Let the police determine what steps need to be taken since it would be a crime investigation.
Talk to a police officer or detective on how to protect your teen and what can be done to put a stop to anymore photo sharing. Think about bringing your teen to the officer or detective to have a one on one deep conversation about the consequences of their actions as well as the dangers of their decisions.
Change the phone number on your teen’s phone and put a parental lock on it if at all possible. Better yet, get a new phone that has settings to lock the phone down at any time and block whoever you need as well as allowable contacts.
Have a long discussion with your teen about the dangers and criminal impact it would have on them.
Make Contact – If there are other teens you recognize from inappropriate photos, contact their parents. Better yet, give the information to the police and they will contact them.
Get them in counseling. If you do not find the root problem of why they began to go down this path, they will go right back and do it again.
Be encouraged. It is never too late to change the situation around. Ask God to give you wisdom and strength through this difficult time. Pray for discernment on how to get to the truth.
Do not ridicule, humiliate or disrespect your teen because of what they have done. They will feel bad enough that you even found out about this. Pray with them and for them. They need to know that even though they did wrong, they have parents that still love them and will extend forgiveness to them. It is better to win their heart with truth and grace than to beat them with emotionally damaging words.
Every teen is a child of God and a gift to us. Let us be advocates for their safety and welfare, protecting them emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. God has entrusted them to us. Therefore we must pray for God to lead them back on the right path and help them grow to the potential that He has promised for them. Ask God to help you be accountable as a parent and in the end, there will be great rewards.
Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Image courtesy of Carballo by MorgueFile.com