Are they aware of the risks and consequences of sending or receiving a sexual message?
In a recent study by JAMA Pediatrics the sending of sexually explicit videos, images or messages via cell phone texts also known as sexting — has become more common among adolescents. It also revealed that as the teen gets older, engaging in sext messages increases.
As we have witnessed with medicine abuse and other substance use, many parents live in denial that their teen would participate in this activity. Today sexting is considered the new flirting and some youth are not aware of the risks or consequences (potentially legal ones) they can fall into.
The consequences of sexting also extend offline. When something that was intended to be a private communication ends up in public, the shame and humiliation can drive our kids to the point of self-destruction. Another consequence of sexting: Experts have found children and teens that sext are more likely to engage in real-world sexual activity than students who don’t sext.
For generations, many parents have cringed at the thought of having the “birds and the bees” conversation. Today we have to open the door for the “sext talk” without hesitation as children are digitally connected for an average of 9 hours a day. The parents of Jessica Logan, Hope Witsell, Audrie Pott and Amanda Todd are sadly linked together by the aftermath of sexting and cyberbullying with the loss of their teens to bullycide.
It’s a parent’s responsibility to empower their children and teens with the knowledge to make good choices about how to use all forms of technology and social media. It’s their offline skills that will help them make better online decisions. Your teen may always be an app ahead of you, but they will always need your parenting wisdom echoing in their ear when you’re not there – while making their digital choices.
The sext chat outline for parents to open the dialogue:
Talk about it.Frequently and start early. Stress the importance of safe sharing online. When your kids hear news of sext crime cases, initiate a conversation. Talk about how sexting leads to negative consequences even for adults. Revenge porn is rising every day. It can happen to anyone at any age.
Make it real.Kids don’t always realize that what they do online is “real-life.” Ask them to consider how they would feel if their teacher or grandparent saw a provocative comment or picture. Remind them there’s no rewind online and no true delete button in the digital world. Comments and photos are not retrievable.
Address peer pressure. Give your kids a way out – blame it on us. Tell them to let their friends know that their parents monitor (and/or spot check) their phones and social media, and you can’t risk losing your devices.
Discuss legal and online consequences. Depending on your state, there can be legal ramificationswhen you send sexual content or even participate in forwarding it. What goes online – stays online. This is your digital landscape.
If you receive a sexual message, never engage in it or forward it. Tell your parent or trusted adult immediately. If necessary, contact the authorities or your school.
Know that your parent is only a call away.Let your child know they can always come to you without judgment. These conversations are about building trust — our kids may always be an “app” ahead of us, but we will always be the adult in the family – lead by example and be there for them.
Has your teen been a victim of sextortion or revenge porn? Maybe involved in a sexting scandal? Know there is help and resources available:
Author Kari Kampakis has written two timely and amazing books for parents of both tween and teenage girls and boys in today’s world of peer pressure – both online and offline.
Here is one of her recent post’s – and be sure to order her books on Amazon or your favorite bookstore.
Click on book to order from Amazon.
10 Things Parents of Middle Schoolers Should Know
It’s rare to hear anyone say they loved middle school. Even people with positive memories never tout it as the best years of their life.
Simply put, it’s an awkward season. It’s a time of constant changes, social shake-ups, swinging emotions, and intense pressures. If I’ve learned anything from working with adolescent girls, it’s how hungry this age group is for comfort and reassurance. I hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes whenever I speak to a group, a look of searching and a longing to hear something – anything – to help them make sense of things.
Please tell me it gets better, their faces silently plead. Tell me this isn’t it.
Well, middle school kids, I assure you that life picks up. There’s a bigger, more promising world beyond this rite of passage. In the meantime, I have 10 truths to center you. I hope they bring you peace and a little friendly guidance.
Truth #10: Today’s most awkward moments will be tomorrow’s funniest memories. Keep a sense of humor whenever possible.
Those braces on your teeth that collect food? That acne on your face that miracle creams can’t cure? That giddy rush you get when your crush walks by, and you can’t think, talk, or see straight? One day these things will be really funny! They’ll be the memories you rehash again and again with your siblings and oldest friends.
It takes time, but as you gain confidence, your awkward moments become fun to share. You’ll readily admit yours and laugh at the comedy and conversation that result.
Eventually you’ll have a dazzling smile, clear skin, and someone to love. Your current problems will have closure. So stay mindful of the big picture, and remember that even your worst experiences will pass.
Truth #9: You don’t want to peak in middle school (or high school or college, for that matter). The worst goal you can have is popularity. Because what often makes adolescents popular – running with the fast crowd, dominating your peers, living a superficial lifestyle – eventually leads to problems.
A truly successful person gets better with time. You go from being version 1.0 of yourself to version 2.0, 4.0, 6.0 and so on. But when you chase popularity, you peak early. You stop growing and improving because you’re stuck in instant gratification mode, looking for quick fixes to satisfy your needs.
Make it your goal to peak later in life. Make good choices that set you up for a bright future. If you’re not a superstar now, that’s okay. This simply means there are better things ahead as you continue to evolve and learn.
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Truth #8: Technology makes it easier than ever to ruin relationships and reputations. We live in an age where people post everything online – feelings, emotions, and pictures. I love technology when it’s used wisely, but too often, it’s used impulsively. We let our fingers jump ahead of our brains, and within seconds, we can trigger hurt, misunderstandings, and serious issues.
So please, think twice before texting, emailing, or posting on social media. Cool off before giving someone a piece of your mind, venting, jumping to conclusions, reacting out of jealousy or anger, embarrassing someone, or sending an inappropriate photo. Use the Internet for good, not as a dumping ground.
And when you have an issue with a friend, call instead of sending texts. It’s easy to put in writing what you’d never say in person, or to interpret a message the wrong way, and the tension this adds to a relationship is hard to recover from.
Truth #7: Surrounding yourself with good company is imperative. There’s an old saying that’s particularly relevant to your age group: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
Yes, you’re called to love everyone, but not everyone deserves a place in your innermost circle. Some people you love up close and personal, and others you love at arm’s length because inviting them into your life invites disaster.
Sooner or later, a bad influence will rub off. You’ll either make choices against your better judgment or wind up in a predicament. As a mom I know told her daughter, she once went out with a guy who was very sweet to her but also wild. She didn’t see the issue until they had their first date – and he took her to a drug dealer’s house.
She told her daughter, “Even though I was innocent, I would have gone to jail if the police had come. I was guilty by association just by being there.”
Good friends lift you up. They don’t put you in risky or compromising situations. To become the best version of yourself, you need friends who hold themselves to high standards and want you to reach your full potential, too.
Truth #6: What makes you different is what makes you great. Middle school is largely about conformity. I see this firsthand because I live near a middle school, and over time I’ve noticed how all the kids dress alike, walk alike, and act alike.
Meanwhile, at my children’s elementary school I see authenticity and diverse personalities because the kids don’t know yet how to be anything but themselves. It saddens me to know that they, too, will eventually feel pressured to hide what makes them unique.
You’ll never influence the world by trying to be like it. You’ll never find your calling by following the crowd. God made you different for a reason, and what sets you apart plays into His plan for you. So listen to that quiet voice inside you and remember yourself as a child. Cling to the passions you had in your early years, because they hold more answers than you know.
Truth #5: It’s okay to not to have your life planned out.It’s okay if you haven’t discovered your “thing.” Chances are, you know kids with immense talent and drive. They’ve trained for years in their area of expertise, and they know exactly what they want in life.
Deep down you may be envious and uncomfortable, because you fear you’re getting left behind. You wonder why they have their act together – and you don’t.
But even the best laid plans will face curveballs. Even the most driven kids will wind up on different paths than they originally envisioned. So if your future isn’t mapped out by 9th grade, take heart! You’re still young and have plenty of time to discover what you were born to do. Just set goals for yourself, use your gifts, and head in a good direction. Set a positive trajectory so that when you do discover your thing, you’re ready to soar.
Truth #4: Your uniform is not your identity. Labels are big in middle school, and there’s a confidence that comes from wearing a football jersey, cheerleader uniform, or other team attire.
But remember that having a uniform – or even designer clothes – doesn’t increase your worth. You’re special because of who you are, not what you put on your body or what you achieve.
Overnight you can lose your place on a team. You can lose your talents, your wardrobe, your relationships, even your Instagram account. But if you base your identity on the one thing you’ll never lose – God’s love– your foundation is unshakable. You’ll still be standing even if you lose every earthly trapping this world says is important.
Truth #3: Applause can be misleading. You can make a huge mistake and still get cheered on wildly.Through social media, popularity is now quantifiable. You can gauge your performance by how many “likes”, comments, and shares you get.
But remember, numbers alone can be misleading. To get the full picture, you need to measure numbers against the truth. After all, Jesus Christ had 12 followers. Adolf Hitler had millions. These numbers speak for themselves.
The best applause to live for is the quiet peace inside you. What makes you feel good about yourself? What helps you rest easy at night? Criticizing someone to bring them down or make people laugh won’t bring you peace. Neither will watching someone else beat up on a kid as the crowd cheers him on.
You know the truth by how you feel deep down. And when you seek your applause from within, you don’t need the applause of public approval.
Truth #2: There’s a difference between helpful advice and criticism that holds you back. Be careful who you listen to. Some people want you to succeed. Others don’t. Develop a strong filter for whose words you take to heart – and whose words you ignore.
Some questions to ask yourself are: Do I trust this person? Are they respectable? Do they practice what they preach? Are they the kind of person I hope to become? Do they recognize my talent and potential and encourage me, or do they drag me down by harping on where I fall short?
How others talk to you influences how you talk to yourself. And since that voice in your head impacts your confidence, determination, and willingness to take risks, you want people in your life who speak the truth in love and always with your best interest in mind.
Truth #1: You’re AWESOME. Truly, you are. All these crazy changes are leading to something amazing. In the grand scheme of life middle school is only a blip, so keep it in check. Have fun, dream big, and make good choices. One day you’ll look back and laugh at the absurdities of this stage, and if you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy a lot of humor now.
As a writer, Kari Kampakis hears countless stories about the struggles people face. Over time, one theme has emerged: the hidden pain inside relationships. Kari will share why we need an empathy comeback and how practicing empathy can lead to kindness, understanding, and better life stories.
Kari Kampakis is a mom of four girls who lives in Mountain Brook. She is a blogger, speaker, and author of two books for teen girls. Kari’s work has been featured on national outlets like The Huffington Post and The TODAY Show. When she’s not writing or carpooling kids, she enjoys reading, exercising, and enjoying downtime with her family.
School’s Out: Students Travelling Abroad & Social Media
While parents understand that teenagers may gravitate to spending their summers with old friends doing activities in their hometown, summertime provides a great opportunity for teens to step outside of their comfort zone. Arguably, one of the most effective approaches to providing a fun-filled summer which stretches teens’ cultural, intellectual and social horizons is participation in a study abroad program. Besides the opportunity to pursue current interests or develop new ones, study abroad programs offer teens the excitement of travel and the chance to participate in and learn about different traditions. Depending on the program that your child chooses to travel with, he or she will have the chance to build new friendships with a group of students who come from a wide variety of states and countries.
Per a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens have a smartphone and 45% of them are consistently online. Of course, students studying abroad will most likely document their travels on social media. Recognizing that one’s social media profile can provide their first impression to the outside world, especially for high school students who are building their academic resume for colleges and potential employers, most study abroad programs provide a set of specific guidelines for teens regarding their use of social media. Abbey Road Programs has a particularly constructive approach to this issue, encouraging students to use social media for telling stories about their unique experiences abroad in an educational and appropriate manner.
“We encourage our students to maintain a strong yet respectful presence on Instagram and our company blog during their summer travels abroad”, says Arthur Kian, founder and director of Abbey Road Programs. “The members of our Student Ambassador program stay in touch with their friends and loved ones back home by uploading weekly pictures of architecture, cuisine, or landmarks in Western Europe and Quebec. Social media is a great opportunity for students to show colleges and potential employers their experiences immersing with cultures while studying in international universities”.
Student Ambassadors at Abbey Road publish their study abroad activities on Abbey Road’s website, as well as onto their personal Instagram accounts. While the organization encourages student ambassadors to actively publish their happenings on social media, Abbey Road also emphasizes that students should structure their content appropriately for a variety of audiences – not just peers. Blog and Instagram typically submissions occur a few times per week, allowing students to document new discoveries, friends and adventures.
For those of you who are about to send your child to another part of the globe, how can you make sure that your child is making their online presence interesting yet appropriate? Sue Scheff, founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts, Inc, argues that a teen should create his or her social media profile as their ‘Professional Brand’. “As your young adult starts to navigate the professional world, it’s more important than ever to start refining their online reputation”, says Sue. “For some young people, this might mean redefining themselves online. While you can’t redefine your young adult’s online presence for them, you can encourage them, and even take a moment to polish your own social media while you’re at it.”
Social media and blogging are the primary means of connecting with your friends and family when international calling and texting is limited and expensive. How can parents make sure that their child’s content is meaningful and doesn’t harm their reputation for years to come? Never be afraid to discuss with your son or daughter the consequences that can come from posting text or pictures that can convey a negative impression to colleges or employers. However, while there’s a need to emphasize the importance of safety in online behavior, parents should also acknowledge the positive impressions conveyed by documenting new experiences while, for example, studying abroad.
Evan O’Connor is the Outreach Coordinator for Abbey Road Programs and leader of the company’s Student Ambassador Program.
Examining the Link Between Bullying and Suicide (and What to Do if Someone You Know is in Danger)
Bullying is a significant and complex problem in our society. We used to worry about in-person bullying — physical injuries, theft, and even vandalism. Today, in addition to bullying we also must be concerned about cyberbullying, which can be just as harmful. In 2013 the Urban Institute’s study on bullying revealed that “17% [of] students reported being victims of cyberbullying, 41% reported being victims of physical bullying, and 45% reported being victims of psychological bullying.”
In 2014 JAMA Pediatrics reported that “cyberbullying was strongly related [to] suicidal ideation in comparison with traditional bullying.” Most kids spend a lot of time online, talking to friends, but also gossiping at times. Because they see the Internet as anonymous, kids feel as though they can pretend to be someone else online (known as catfishing), and bully people in this way. This can be immensely harmful to others, as well as themselves, and can have devastating consequences.
Who, Where, Why?
Like other forms of bullying, cyberbullying can occur anywhere, by anyone. All that’s required is a device with Internet access, which is incredibly common anymore.
People from all different backgrounds are bullied. Some groups are unfortunately more likely to be bullied, such as LGBTQ youth, young people with disabilities, and individuals who tend to isolate themselves from others. Basically anyone who is different from the accepted norm in their respective community or peer group is at a higher risk of being bullied.
A bully can pick on anyone about anything. They can target those they deem to be too “weird” or different from themselves, or even someone they’re secretly jealous of. Children and young adults have been bullied for myriad reasons, from weight, to wearing the “wrong” clothing, to merely being outside a clique. Some of the warning signs that may indicate that someone is being bullied include:
Unexplained physical injuries
Items missing that the victim states are “lost”
Feeling or faking illnesses, often headaches or stomach problems
Different eating habits, whether overeating or undereating
Loss of interest in school and having trouble with schoolwork
Not wanting to be in social situations or a loss of friends
Low self-esteem and hopelessness
Hurting themselves, speaking of suicide, and leaving home without notice
The Link Between Bullying and Suicide
Children who are bullied may be at an increased risk of suicide. However, most bullying victims do not think about suicide. Bullying itself is seldom the single cause of suicide; it’s typically a combination of issues, illnesses, or situations in the individual’s history combined with bullying that leads to suicidal thoughts. Some issues of concern include mental illness, traumas, and bad home situations. In addition, there are different groups who may have an increased risk of suicide including:
Kids [who] are not supported by parents, peers, and schools
How to Help With Bullying
There are many ways to help someone you know if they’re being bullied, including:
Really listen to the individual, show that you care by paying attention.
Let the child know that being targeted by bullies is not their fault.
Realize that bullied children might have trouble talking about it with you. You may want to have them talk with a psychologist, psychiatrist or even a counselor at their school.
Give them some good advice as to what to do. You may want to partake in role-playing in this situation.
Work together with the victim, the victim’s parent(s), school, or an organization to come up with a fair solution. The child being bullied should not have to have their schedules or routines changed; they are not at fault.
How to Help With Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is new to our society and is becoming more and more common. Some children have taken their lives as a result. There are some ways you can help your child or friend prevent cyberbullying, such as cutting off communication with the bully, blocking the bully on social media sites (so they do not have any access to your postings or phone number), or complaining anonymously to the social media sites where cyberbullying is taking place — they have strict rules and will keep evidence of bullying interactions.
If you’re a parent, ways to help your child include supporting them mentally and emotionally and not forcing them to end online communications with others. When a child is the victim, being banned from participating on social media may be perceived as punishment. It’s not their fault, though, that they are being victimized. Consider speaking with the other child’s parent(s) or even the police (if the situation is serious enough). Bullying is a serious problem and can lead to many terrible events, including violence and suicide. Remember that there is always someone out there to listen and support you.
Contributor: Steve Johnson co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow pre-med student.The availability of accurate health facts, advice, and general answers is something Steve wants for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. He continues to spread trustworthy information and resources through the website, but also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time.