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I am having a problem with my friends 13 year old boy, who thinks it is normal and acceptable to send nude photos on the Internet. He says this is what all his friends/peers do so I should accept and allow it. He also said I shouldn't invade his privacy.

I have warned him about the dangers and all the pitfalls but he doesn’t listen or want to know, so I have taken the Internet away till he learns some valuable lessons.

Some of the dangers and pitfalls I pointed out were:

  1. Mental health issues
  2. Grooming
  3. Bullying
  4. Jail
  5. Criminal record
  6. Being placed on a sex offenders list
  7. Images being stolen used against him or her
  8. Self-esteem issues

Am I being too hard on him, and how do I proceed in this world that revolves around the Internet?

  • 5
    Do you know who he is sending them to, and why? A circle of male friends sharing dick pics is one kind of problem, but sending them to unsuspecting females is a much more serious problem. Try lecturing a bit less, and asking and listening a bit more. Once you understand the motivation you will have an angle of attack. At least some of your pitfalls are clearly beside the point as far is he is concerned: if lots of people do this and its generally accepted then bullying about it simply isn't going to happen. This weakens all your other points. Also be realistic about the legal risks. – Paul Johnson Dec 18 '17 at 22:57
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    @Facebook: You are correct of course; I wasn't trying to enumerate all possibilities, just to illustrate the spectrum with a couple of data points. – Paul Johnson Dec 18 '17 at 23:15
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    It may be "not unexpected" for 13 year old boys to do this, but an unintended side effect of the laws (US) is that he could be charged with distributing and possessing child pornography. – pojo-guy Dec 19 '17 at 19:46
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    So let me get this straight: your 13 year old CHILD, is telling you that you are invading his privacy, and that you should allow him to engage in incredibly risky, possibly immoral, and likely illegal behavior because his friends do it. And you're worried about being too harsh by restricting his internet access?! It seems to me that your kid is hanging out with the wrong people, and is picking up some extremely worrying attitudes and behavior. Time to step up and PARENT. He'll thank you later. – AndreiROM Dec 21 '17 at 19:48
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    Is there a way to anonymize this question, to protect your son's identity? – Rose Hartman Jan 3 '18 at 17:44
6

1 - You need to be in his business all the time without restrictions

From my viewpoint and how I am bringing up my children you can't invade his privacy, you are the father. As a father there are legal expectations which make you responsible for your child, and there are deeper responsibilities you have to your child which can be described as spiritual/moral.

There are so many pittfalls in life and society and so many bad influences that you can't prepare your child for everything and they simply are not equipped to deal with everything that the world throws at them. As a father we have to

1.) Guide them through some things
2.) Protect them from some things
3.) Stand and watch (in full knowledge of what is happening) them struggle through some things

Each of these requires you to know what he's going through without layers of secrets - which by definition he will try to create. That is life, kids want to hide things they are embarrassed by or thing they will get in trouble with.

I fully believe that a parent as an active responsibility to know what is happening in their children's lives.

13 is a LONG way from being an adult. I think many people agree that a 13 year old boy is about as far off from being a responsible adult as any age (i.e. your boy was closer to being an adult at 9 than 13 due to puberty and hormones).

2 - You are not being too hard on him

There is soo much research and talk about the dangers and risks associated with the influence of technology on children that I won't cite it here.

Cell phones/internet are not a right, nor are they particularly beneficial for teens and children.

The level of inappropriateness he is displaying is extreme. Freedom comes with responsibity - and freedom is lost with irresponsibility. Ask anyone in jail or without a job.

At the end of the day you have a vision for your son. You may actively imagine it and strive for it - or you may do it passively. Either way, right now you have done something good for him. You are sowing seeds that will sprout a little later in his life. Believe in those seeds, and sow them in love. While he will most certainly be resentful and attempt to be mean and rebel, stay the course of tough love.

What is tough love in my mind?

1) You love someone when they don't deserve it - that is tough
2) You teach them discipline and train them up even when they don't see the good you are doing them. But this requires definition 1 to be successful.

3 - Proceeding without internet

First, this world does not in fact revolve around the internet. I am a technology professional and I have no facebook/snapchat/whatever else. I also keep my phone on silent all day long - to the chagrin of my family. My point is, all this technology in the world is mostly fluff/conveinience. If he has to call you he will have a friend nearby with a phone. If he has work to do he can use a home laptop (depends on the school this may or may not be required). While working you can put in some controls on what sites he can go to and access,

even better you can sit next to him and do your own reading/work and spend time with him.

  • I have to honestly say that I totally agree with you, what a very well answer, I alway work with technology and am shocked by how foolish parents are in my country, the are so zombified by there own addiction to smartphones they don't know what going on – Jason Delaney Dec 21 '17 at 14:28
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    Indeed, this 13 year old is exhibiting not only a worrying attitude of entitlement (parent doesn't have the right to judge/impose limitations), but is also naive enough to think that something is "OK because my friends do it". To me, this is a clear indication that this kid is hanging out with the wrong people, and probably that the parent should have stepped in much sooner. Why is it that some parents don't understand that they have to be parents first, "friends" second, if at all. – AndreiROM Dec 21 '17 at 19:46
  • While I put a lot of thought and work into my answer on this, yours definitely earns my upvote as well. – NonCreature0714 Dec 21 '17 at 21:17
4

I'm not quite sure I'm interpreting the problem correctly. In this answer, I'm assuming that your son takes nude pictures of himself (because of points 2 and 7 on your list) and sends them to friends (if he sends them to random strangers, immediately stop this, if necessary by removing his ability to take nude pictures of himself, in order to protect your child!).

You've already compiled a list of problems that can result from this. But I could imagine that in your desire to convince him that what he's doing is wrong, you actually confronted him with this list, one item after the other.

Now imagine what that does. He's sharing these nude pictures with some of his friends (?), not thinking too much except that it is exciting, and suddenly you come along with all these reasons why he is doing something really stupid. Add to it the fact that he's possibly embarassed about it if you've actually seen these pictures.

I think the way forward shouldn't be to "take away the internet" - you can't possibly do this. He can get on a friend's wifi hotspot, on free wifi hotspots, can use the internet at school etc. So this is just a punishmet that won't cure the problem (to keep him from taking nude pictures of himself, you'd have to remove his access to a camera - e.g. take away his phone - this wouldn't be foolproof either, but much more effective).

If I were you, I'd start compiling evidence that you're correct in warning him of the dangers to himself. I'd leave the legal side of this to the sidelines - tell him he's possibly creating child pornography as defined by the law, so he knows he's doing something that can be considered illegal (depending on where you live) and might get him into legal trouble. But I'd focus on the dangers to his social standing and self-esteem, which he obviously hasn't thought through. Ask him what he'll do when someone who doesn't like him gets hold of a nude picture of him and posts it for everyone at his school to see. Discuss with him how his pictures might get in the hands of someone besides his friends. Explain that he can't possibly keep control of a picture he sends to somebody else. Then show him examples of what you mean - there are enough news articles about people losing control of such situations that it shouldn't be hard. There's also a nice movie about this, but it's a german production ("Homevideo") and I don't think it has been translated into english.

You write that he doesn't want to listen. You don't say why. Maybe it's because he's too embarassed to want to discuss this with you, so maybe having someone else talk to him about it might work.

If that isn't it and he's just stubborn, maybe taking his phone away until he's ready to discuss this with you might work.

If he's convinced that his behaviour won't lead to problems, maybe you could provoke a small one, in the safe environment of your family, to show him that what he's doing has consequences he will have to deal with sooner or later. Printing out one of the nude pictures and giving it to him as a physical object, asking him whether he'd want to show it to his mom, or his sisters, or his grandparents etc might start a thought-process going. You could also ask him whether he thinks you've only printed out a single copy, and how he can ever know there aren't more copies. Make him realize that this is exactly what happened once he sent that image to his friends - he has no idea what happened to it. Don't threaten to send the picture to other people, but make sure he understands that this is what might happen anyway because you're not the only one with a copy of that image, and he has basically no clue who else has a copy on their phone by now. If he gets angry at you for taking one of his pictures, use that to show him that while he didn't want it to get into your hands, it still got there - because he lost control of it. If his phone has access protection and he doesn't want to give it up to you, that's another starting point for a discussion: Obviously there are things on there he doesn't want you to see - so again, you can discuss with him how he decides who gets to see what. For example, what happens if one of the parents of the friends who received his nudes has a similar conversation with their child and gets to see his nude picture? What if that parent then confronts your wife and you with that picture... lots of good ways to make consequences more real here.

Be very careful if you try to provoke such a incident by basically bringing one of his nude pictures into your posession. I'd only do it if nothing else worked, beause it is a serious invasion of his privacy, even if you'd only do it to make him realize his privacy is more important than he thinks.

Also, think about whether to talk to the parents of your sons friends. Again, I'd probably not do this, but depending on the legal consequences of having these pictures fall into the wrong hands, it might be necessary to inform them so you can all take steps together to protect your children before something happens that will involve the police and blow this out of proportion.

  • +1 "Also, think about whether to talk to the parents of your sons friends" Very important! – Rose Hartman Jan 3 '18 at 17:41
1

Take away the Internet is just a temporary fix.

In the US a teen does not have a right to privacy if you are the legal guardian. They don't have to like it. In the US you don't have a right to privacy on a work computer.

At some point they need to learn how to manage personal data.

I would stay away from cause and symptoms and focus on data. If you say it can cause mental issues they may argue not me. Keep the data rules simple.

Consider private data that is not illegal. "Great party you were so drunk." That can cost you a college application or a job. OK so drunk would not likely cost you college or a job but you get the idea. Private data that goes public could effect your credit.

You might post on a Friends FB sorry about your mom's cancer. That is private data - her employer may not know she has cancer.

Need to appreciate that once it goes public the Internet is forever. A private email can become pubic if the receiver makes it public and the sender has not control over that.

Some data is just plain illegal such as pornography. It does not matter where you got it if it is in your possession then it can be a problem. Does not matter where is came from if you send it or it is found on your hard drive.

Another problem is data that is not private or illegal but the intent was to bully or harass.

Surfing pornography may or may not be legal but I doubt your 13 year old to do that. Make that a mom rule.

Privacy. A screen name and password is only nominally private. If you do bad stuff a judge can order your ISP or site to track you down.

It is not like and arrest that goes away at 18.

A teen needs to understand that anything that goes on (public) the Internet it could be forever even if you erase it as copies are made all the time.

I would educate them on the mechanics and direct consequences. It is not OK just because your friends do it.

  • Do you mean "child pornography is illegal" or something? Having or creating pornography isn't illegal in most of the world. – Erik Dec 20 '17 at 22:07
  • @Erik Adjust for local laws what type of images are flat illegal. In the US I believe under 18 is child pornography. IANAL. – paparazzo Dec 20 '17 at 23:33
0

The people who made the movie Screenagers have a sort-of newsletter that comes out once a week, with discussion questions, actually more like conversation openers, that make it less difficult to have exploratory conversations between parent and teen about this type of topic. Here are the two posts they've had that are specifically about sexting: https://www.screenagersmovie.com/tech-talk-tuesdays/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-sexting?rq=sext and https://www.screenagersmovie.com/tech-talk-tuesdays/beggin-for-sexts?rq=sext.

Here's the intro:

TECH TALK TUESDAYS (TTT)

In 2015, to decrease struggles in her home and foster healthy screen time, Dr. Delaney Ruston, Screenagers' filmmaker, started Tech Talk Tuesdays with her family. Dr. Ruston now shares her weekly TTT topics with thousands of families and teachers who have signed up.

Subscribe to her TTT to receive conversation starters about social media, video game use, tech tips and more. TTT works any day, not just Tuesdays, but the key is sticking with it. Calm consistent conversations can really improve family and classroom dynamics and help kids become more mindful about screen time.

Dr. Ruston found that a way to get kids more invested in TTTs is to start each conversation with everyone saying something positive about screen time. There are many great things about tech—and that is why we have to all work together to achieve balance.

The posts are written in a curious, non-judgmental way that really works for capturing a teen's attention and getting productive conversations going.

Here's part of the linked material:

A study from 2012 found that roughly 20% of U.S. adolescents between 13 and 19 reported having sent, or posted, a nude or semi-nude photo of themselves, and 28% said they received a sext message intended for someone else.

I want to be clear that I’m not condoning that teens send inappropriate, revealing photos to each other. But, we have to figure out a way to talk with our kids about what they are seeing and doing, and what they think it makes sense. We can hear them out, give them some data, and our views—but let’s do it from a realistic place, not a scary place.

Here are some questions for Tech Talk Tuesday to get a conversation with your kids started about sexting:

  • How do you define sexting?
  • When you post a picture of yourself in a bathing suit, running bra or shirtless, why are you doing this? Is it because you think you look great and want to let everyone know? Is it because that’s just what everyone is doing?
  • How do you decide what to post versus text?
  • Have you ever received a physically revealing picture that made you feel uncomfortable?
  • Have you ever sent a physically revealing picture of yourself to someone, or posted one to social media, and then regretted it?

Also, I wonder, have you shared an article about someone who's career was ruined through sexting, e.g. Anthony Weiner?

  • 2
    This only barely, sorta answers the question because of the last sentence. The rest is just a (very long) link only answer. As soon as those links go bad, the rest of the answer contains nothing useful to the OP or future readers. If you could edit in the useful parts of the linked content / summarize it, you would have a much better answer here. – Becuzz Dec 19 '17 at 13:16
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    While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review – Marisa Dec 19 '17 at 13:50
  • @Marisa - I brought in some more text. Hope I reached a happy balance (not too much, not too little). – aparente001 Dec 19 '17 at 15:37
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Great question! I believe many parents have the same issue.

I'm a parent of two kids and grew up with the internet. (I was born in 90's)

What I'm about to convey may be a shock but it's important to understand how a child's experience has changed over time due to technology or social changes.

The reason your child thinks it is normal, is because the majority of kids are engaging in this behavior. Furthermore, most adults engage in this behavior and this is well proven with data of the most frequently visit websites and searches.

If you live in a developed area with internet access, then you will be unable to add parental blocks or restrict content. Any 10 year old, is likely to access a friend's device or find a way to bypass security measures.

Therefore, the most responsible approach is to provide context to the situation. You have to treat your kid like an adult although a child's understanding may not be fully developed.

Your concerns are valid, but you can not simply prevent these behavior. It is very normal and common. Teenagers have hormones and are interested in sex. Your best bet is teaching a child to respect people, provide sexual education, and relationship advice.

Please let us know what you learn from this post any any tactics you find helping. Good luck.

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