LOLs and OMGs: texting, sexting, and kids

Andrea Tomkins

It’s pretty amazing how tech-savvy kids are nowadays. I like to think I’m a pretty smart mamma but in certain areas my kids have me beat. The TV remote is one of the devices they understand better than I do and don’t even ask me to explain Minecraft. (Perhaps that is a different post altogether!)

Our kids are coming of age at a time that things like online shopping, Facetime, and texting are all normal everyday occurrences. Technology is enabling people to do some pretty amazing things, and even communicate in a whole new way using a new language. You may know this as texting.

I can understand why texting appeals to a teenage brain. I would have loved to have this means of communicating with my friends when I was younger. It’s like having your own mini-superpower - to “whisper” something over distances near and far, to send a thought only to have it received instantly by your BFF - it’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Unfortunately, superpowers can be abused. And what makes the “instant” and “sharable” part of texting so awesome can also make it absolutely devastating.

You’ve probably heard a lot about “sexting” recently: sexting is the practice of using text messages to send sexy self-portraits to boyfriends and girlfriends. There is almost always semi or full-nudity involved.

Mashable posted this public service announcement from the Vancouver-based Children of the Street Society and I will be making it required viewing in our household:

So what would be some good things to say to our kids about sexting?

We know that tweens and teens like to take risks and push boundaries, and they’ll make mistakes, but I think our job as parents is to arm them with as much information and knowledge as we can and then hope that if a situation arises they will make the right choice.

We also know that many kids won’t take the time to consider possible outcomes in the heat of the moment. Maybe the solution is to teach them to stop and think before publishing anything online – whether it’s a text or photograph or blog post or Facebook update. They have to understand that even if they’re sending a photo to a person they trust, once they hit the “send” button the image is out of their control. And once the image is gone it is irretrievable – possibly forever – and the fallout could be catastrophic.  It’s important to remind them to never let anyone pressure them into doing something that makes them feel uncomfortable, that they could potentially regret in the future.

Bullying has been in the headlines more than ever lately, and it seems that social media always plays a part in it. We should also take the time to talk about what a teen should do if confronted with someone else’s salacious photo.

How’s this for a little something you can text to your teen right now:

If U receive a photo or a msg, pls T.H.I.N.K. before fwding. Is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind? If not, DGT! Trash it.

  • Would you like to read more about sexting? There’s more about on the MediaSmarts website right here.
  • We also have a social media tip sheet that may come in handy if you’re talking about these issues with your kids too.

Periodic Text Message Table