If You've Got A Teen or Tween, You Don't Want to Miss This!
As the parent of a soon to be teen, I have to say I have been really hesitant about allowing her to get a Facebook page or Skype account. Sure, she has a cell phone and seems to text incessantly with her friends, but there's something particularly scary about allowing her to share her innermost thoughts online with her supposed close friends - especially when the Internet has become a haven for cyberbullies and other seamy characters. After the recent suicide of a 15 year old Staten Island girl who threw herself in front of a bus after being dumped by her boyfriend and tormented online, it seems as if these incidents are becoming more frequent and tragic at every turn.
If you have a daughter or son approaching their teens, then I would highly recommend they watch the new original Lifetime Movie that debuts on January 14, "Sexting in Suburbia," which tells the story of Dina, a beautiful and athletic girl who had the world ahead of her. She was an honors student, homecoming queen, a star field hockey player who had just won a scholarship to college and a great looking boyfriend too. But her world suddenly falls apart at the seams when she sends a naked photo of herself to her boyfriend and the image is shared virally throughout her school and even winds up in the hands of strangers. Dina's life is tragically cut short after she succumbs to the constant mental abuse by her former friends and sadly, her mother makes the grim discovery after returning from work. Liz Vessey plays the convincing role as Dina's mom - determined to find out who shared Dina's photos online and ruined her life forever.
After watching "Sexting in Suburbia," it really got me thinking about the real life teen suicide that took place this past week. The girl's parents had no idea she was being tormented online and then after her death, an anonymous group of heinous individuals continued posting negative comments on her Facebook page. Honestly, what kind of twisted person would seek to continue to malign the character of a defenseless girl who can no longer protect herself because she was so beaten down by this behavior that she thought ending her life would be the better alternative.
While my daughter has yet to enter high school and I'm still holding back on that Facebook page, I have to say that the only way we as parents can help our kids understand how their actions can play a role in damaging the lives of others, is to teach them about sexting before they can even own a phone or chat online with their friends. Before you hand over a new phone to your child, teach them the ground rules of texting and ensure that they will never, ever send a naked photo of themselves or anyone else to another person's phone.
The same holds true for your Facebook page - if you don't want a college admissions officer seeing you bare chested, or drinking alcohol or spewing profanity, then don't ever put it on your Facebook page. More importantly - for the innocent bystanders who watch as their peers are bullied incessantly by cowards who hide behind a fake Facebook account; if you see something - say something! Whether it be confronting them in person or diffusing their despicable comments with a positive response, the end goal should be about protecting our children to the best of our abilities. If you are not well versed in Facebook, then it's time you open an account and monitor your child's activities. For more information on how you can protect your child from the dangers of sexting and cyberbullying, visit Stomp Out Bullying.
See what other moms are saying about Teens and sexting.