How do I deal with my son’s sexting?
Sexting is unwise but fairly common behaviour, so try not to overreact.
I think you already know that you’re going to have to chat to your son about this. You could try and avoid letting on that you’ve read his texts by a line like: ‘‘I’ve been hearing a lot about sexting and I thought we could chat about how this can sometimes go horribly wrong for both parties?’’
Or you can just tell him you love him and that you’ve read his texts and that you feel compelled to talk to him.
Either way, explain that by asking for photos he is putting someone he obviously likes in a very vulnerable position. Tell him you know he’s going to be a decent wonderful man and he wouldn’t knowingly do this to a girl, or to anyone.
(If you have the conversation in a reasonably public place, and he’s sitting in front of a fresh scone, he’ll be less likely to bolt).
Your 14-year-old son will have been thinking of girls in terms of body parts for a while, and the bluntness of this exchange shows how naive they both are.
They may see this as normal courting behaviour, some sort of currency, and she may have felt obliged to offer a photo. The girl’s question ‘‘what do you want’’ is as full of bravado as your son’s reply.
The message you want your son to understand is that relationships wane and fold but the image is sitting there susceptible to being exploited.
Your son could lose his phone, or pass the picture onto his best friend who has no emotional attachment — or maybe no scruples.
There isn’t always a problem but when there is, the impact on the person whose intimate picture is being passed around can be devastating.
There’s a very good book called Keeping Your Children Safe
Online by John Parsons, an expert on the safe and ethical use of digital technology and it has a whole chapter on this very subject.
Sexting is unwise but try not to overreact.