Are you an NMK parent? An NMK parent is one who is knowingly or unknowingly infected with the NMK virus, otherwise known as the “Not My Kid” virus.
Few of us can imagine the possibility that our child could be like “those other” kids online — you know the ones that open private accounts, get casual with personal information, or engage in sexting.
Nope, not my kid. Even so, our fears don’t stand a chance against reality which is, according to several studies, that teen sexting happens far more than parents might think.
As parents, it’s important to lead our kids from a position of reality. So, while it’s probable your child isn’t sexting, it’s possible that at some point they might or, at least, be tempted.
So here’s your reality check going into 2016: A) You are the parent, that’s a powerful, sacred title B) You pay the cell phone bills and own the phone and C) you are responsible legally (as well as socially and emotionally) for your child’s safety. If fear is keeping you from monitoring your minor son or daughter’s cell phone, the consequences of that decision are also on you.
But isn’t that in invasion of their privacy? many parents ask. Remind them of the points mentioned and let your kids know that privacy and safety are not one in the same. Reality checks are good for kids as well as parents.
Here are three signs your teen may be sexting and what can you do about it:
- They become overly protective of their cell phones 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.
- Grades change. Grades may drop as risky behaviors 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 behavior.
Trust your instincts. If you suspect your teen may be sexting, you are probably on to something. As you know full well, a parent’s intuition is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Do not deny your suspicions—bring them out into the open and deal with the issues.
Review their texts. That’s right. Ask your kids for their phones and review their texts. While you are at it, review their email and Facebook messages too. Some teens—and even parents—may cry “privacy violation” at this point but teaching mobile responsibility is a serious thing. The consequences of sexting can range from trauma, to criminal charges, reputation damage, even suicide if a sexting situation gets out of control. Remind your teen that nothing sent digitally is in your control and keep in mind that hormones and teenage judgment are not sound tools
Consistent monitoring. You first line of defense as a parent is a good offense and that is established and maintained with through excellent communication. The greater the communication and trust, the more you know as a parent. Talk about mobile responsibility and expectations, time limits (no late night texting), and why monitoring is part of your teen owning a phone. Be sure to put consequences on the table before a situation arises.
SnapChat monitoring. With SnapChat’s disappearing content feature, kids may think it’s okay to send a racy picture. However, there is one way to monitor even SnapChat. According to CNN, there’s an incognito, albeit pricey, software that will help you monitor your child’s SnapChat activity.
Shut it down. If you find that sexting is an issue, follow through on your set consequences. Remind your child that sexting under the age of 18 is considered child pornography. Also, if the issue continues, call your cell provider and have texting capabilities blocked from your child’s phone.