I’ll be the first to admit – it’s an uncomfortable subject to bring up with your tweens and teens: nude selfies.
But if you aren’t having the talk, there’s a good possibility your kids are – or might someday – engage in this behavior.
Last month, a swim coach in San Jose was arrested after police allege that he swapped sexual texts and images with young swimmers.
And it’s not an isolated case.
In fact the Deseret News in Utah reports that kids just accept “sexting” as a normal and natural behavior for teens.
What. The. Actual. Hello?
But there’s more. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1761, the “Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017.” It is designed to close loopholes in child pornography laws, but it also opens the door for real jail time for teens who engage in sexting.
15 years of jail time for first time offenders.
My husband and I have talked about this issue. This spring, an educator friend of his told him that sexting starts as young as middle school.
Our oldest is almost 12 and will start middle school next year. The others, ages 10 and 8, are too young for such talks – aren’t they?
Middle-school bust for a sexting ring
Apparently not. In April, 16 middle-school students in Las Vegas were cited for being involved in a “sexting ring,” reports KTNV news.
So, I grabbed my eldest, all sunshine and light, and told her not to take or send nude selfies on her computer or any other electronic device. Ever. Her response:
Followed by her hand in front of my face and, “That’s gross.”’
I believe in the no-time-like-the-present form of parenting.
My husband prefers a more measured approach and wasn’t amused when I advised our oldest (for laughs) to take Polaroids instead of digital selfies and always keep them with her to prevent unwanted sharing.
No joke: Crimes are being committed
We will be having another, more thoughtful talk — soon — because the so-not-funny thing about these selfies is that kids could be charged with a crime.
Utah police say creating and distributing a nude selfie – even a picture of yourself sent to a boyfriend or girlfriend on your phone – could result in being charged in possession of child pornography, which is a felony.
We have similar laws in Arizona, and the resulting criminal record a child can receive varies, depending on the ages of those involved and circumstances, said Sgt. Scott Waite, the Glendale Police Department’s public information officer.
The Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act would make exchanging nude selfies a federal crime.
“We deal with this situation in the schools and community on a regular basis,” Waite said. “As social media continues to evolve, so does the problem.
“We typically see issues with nude selfies among couples in school. They send pictures back and forth. The problem comes when they break up and one side decides to distribute or publish the pictures of the other party.”
Having the talk
I’m not ready for that talk.
I don’t know how I’ll find the words that encompass using good judgment, the emotional fallout from sexting and being charged with a possible crime. Especially amid my kids’, and my own, extreme discomfort.
But I know this: My kids are of the selfie generation. The smeared mirrors in my car and my home attest to this, as they spend time practicing. They primarily share their photos with each other. That will change.
I haven’t let them engage in cooking or even walking down the street without some instruction on safety and consequences.
Photo sharing and social media deserves some instruction, too. No matter how gross, uncomfortable or implausible it sounds now.
How to have ‘the talk’
Resources for how to have the talk about sexting and nude selfies with your kids:
American Academy of Pediatrics, aap.org.
Common Sense Media, commonsensemedia.org.
Psychology today, psychologytoday.com.