What if your daugh­ter is sex­ting?

Whether we like it or not, its a fact of life, but one that can be kept un­der con­trol.

QT Magazine - - PARENTING - WITH MICHELLE MITCHELL

DID you know that 49 per cent of young peo­ple have sent a sex­u­ally sug­ges­tive image and 67 per cent of young peo­ple have re­ceived a sex­u­ally sug­ges­tive image?

I want you to take away two things from th­ese statis­tics – sex­ting is a se­ri­ous is­sue but a very com­mon one. If your daugh­ter has sent a nude image re­mem­ber she is not the only one who has done so. Re­mem­ber too that teenagers can re­cover from do­ing so. It is not the un­for­giv­able sin. I ac­tu­ally think it can teach them a huge amount of re­silience and self-pro­tec­tion if dealt with prop­erly.

While some teenagers say that send­ing a nude image was ex­cit­ing and thrilling, there is no such thing as safe sex­ting. The con­se­quences of this type of sex­ual ex­per­i­men­ta­tion can’t be ig­nored and there is def­i­nitely a gen­der bias when it comes to the con­se­quences as­so­ci­ated with this is­sue. I of­ten see girls’ rep­u­ta­tions damaged in a split sec­ond while guys walk away rel­a­tively un­scathed. I see girls hu­mil­i­ated, vi­o­lated and at times even black­mailed with nudes. The dig­i­tal foot­print that po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees can now un­cover (for rel­a­tively few dol­lars) is ab­so­lutely scary so yes, it is very con­cern­ing.

Par­ents, this is what I want you to do if you sus­pect your daugh­ter might be sex­ting.

Sim­ply ask a very direct ques­tion (with­out a lot of warn­ing or lead in time). “Have you ever sent or re­ceived a naked picture?” A direct ques­tion gives a teenager zero wig­gle room. It also gives par­ents the best in­di­ca­tion as to whether their child is ly­ing.

Once you know what you are deal­ing with you can re­spond thought­fully.

Lots of con­struc­tive talking to a young per­son goes a long way. This will help them re­flect, eval­u­ate and learn from the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Keep as many pos­i­tive in their lives as pos­si­ble. Un­less there are safety is­sues to con­sider, don’t limit her ac­cess to her friends or her usual pos­i­tive ac­tiv­i­ties. You also need to re­in­force your need and de­sire to pro­tect her by say­ing no to po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous en­vi­ron­ments or mak­ing any changes you need to en­sure her safety. One ex­am­ple that comes to mind is if sex­ting has hap­pened in a teenager’s be­d­room at night, per­haps so­cial me­dia needs to have a shut down time and re­main out of her be­d­room.

The Dif­fi­cult Ques­tions

Th­ese are some of the tougher ques­tions that par­ents ask me, which I am go­ing to an­swer with the help of great re­sources like www.esafety.gov.au

Can teenagers or par­ents re­cover nude pho­tos?

When it comes to re­cov­er­ing nudes, you can do your best but there is no guar­an­tee that you (or the school or even the po­lice) can re­trieve or delete them. Schools and po­lice may carry a bit more weight when it comes to re­triev­ing pho­tos but even then, there are no guar­an­tees.

What are the le­gal is­sues re­lat­ing to sex­ting?

When teenagers sext, it is a crim­i­nal of­fence be­cause it cre­ates child pornog­ra­phy. It is il­le­gal to ask for, take or cre­ate, re­ceive and keep, be in pos­ses­sion of, send or up­load a sex­u­ally ex­plicit image or video of any­one un­der the age of 18, even if they are your boyfriend or girl­friend and even if they ap­prove of you do­ing so. The penal­ties can in­clude jail sen­tences and sex of­fender reg­is­tra­tion. The po­lice may choose to charge youth with a less se­ri­ous crime, send them to youth coun­selling, give them a warn­ing or cau­tion or let their par­ents or school de­cide on the con­se­quences. Po­lice are more likely to press se­ri­ous charges when the in­ci­dent in­volves ha­rass­ment or threats.

When should par­ents con­tact the po­lice? Def­i­nitely con­tact them if your daugh­ter is in any dan­ger, be­ing bul­lied or threat­ened or if an image has been spread with­out her con­sent. Many par­ents go to the po­lice in the hope they will be able to re­trieve pho­tos, which in some cases po­lice will as­sist with and other times they are un­able to.

When should par­ents con­tact the school?

Schools must re­port in­ci­dents of sex­ting to the po­lice and they will have their own in­ter­nal pol­icy on as­so­ci­ated pun­ish­ment like ex­pul­sion or sus­pen­sion. It may only be nec­es­sary to dis­close an in­ci­dent of sex­ting if it is likely to be­come pub­lic, im­pact their ed­u­ca­tion or you needed the school’s help to re­trieve pho­tos.

When should par­ents con­tact other fam­i­lies?

I per­son­ally would be very cau­tious about con­tact­ing other fam­i­lies un­less you have rea­son to. Ev­ery sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent, but it is crit­i­cal that par­ents par­ent their own child not ev­ery­one else’s. If there is a need to con­tact an­other fam­ily my guess is that the in­ci­dent would be se­ri­ous enough for the school or po­lice to be in­volved, and there­fore you could leave that job to them.

What about boys?

This is­sue im­pacts boys just as much as girls. Please in­volve your sons in the same con­ver­sa­tions. Most of our boys are re­spect­ful when it comes to the op­po­site sex. A few aren’t. Boys need to know that adults who push for nudes within a work en­vi­ron­ment could be ac­cused of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and po­ten­tially lose them their job.

Michelle Mitchell is the Founder of Youth Ex­cel and the au­thor of Par­ent­ing Teens in the Age of a New Nor­mal. For more par­ent­ing tips visit www.michellemitchell.org

PHOTO: FIZKES

UN­SET­TLING FACTS: There is no such thing as safe sex­ting, and once an image has been sent, the sen­der loses con­trol over where it goes.

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