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What Is Sexting?

Julie Nelson-Kuna, PhD, LLC
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
800 W. 5th Avenue, Suite 101B
Naperville, Il 60563
(331) 472-7313;  drjulienelsonkuna.com

 

Yikes! Help me understand the appeal of sexting.

First, a note of reassurance that not everyone is doing it!  Surveys vary, but it seems that about a third of teens report that they have sent selfies that include nude body parts, in a sexually provocative pose.   Sexting generally occurs in the context of a relationship, and in this situation, it is likely parents will not know this is occurring, unless they are regularly monitoring their adolescent’s text messages.    It appears that both boys and girls send these images in about the same frequency, but girls are much more likely to be asked to send a sext.

It is the pressured sexters, who are likely girls, that are much more vulnerable to being exploited. Girls believe these nude images will help them get a boyfriend, or make them more popular because they are so ‘edgy.’ A small minority of girls will send these sexts, unsolicited, as a way to gain popularity with a boy. But sexting rarely works, and these girls appear to more susceptible to mental health problems, risky sexual behavior, and self-cyber bullying, which is a disturbing phenomenon in which teens post mean things about themselves on social media sites, to generate sympathy or attention.  Our girls need to believe that they have so much self-worth, beyond their physical appearance.

Teens have always been about exploring their emerging sexuality, and since more and more of their socializing is occurring through social media, it is not surprising that sexual exploration is also found on social media.  As parents, we need to include sexting as part of our family values discussion regarding responsible sexual behavior.  It does appear that sexting is related to increased sexual activity.  Parents should seek to understand their teen’s understanding of why teens sext, and this will help parents better understand the digital world in which their teenagers live. We need to remind our children that sext messages, like all messages, cannot be retrieved, and can easily be shared.  Some individuals who sext, have been subject to criminal investigation by the police, as sexting is defined as self-production and distribution of pornography.

 

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What Can a Parent Do If a Jr High Student Is Addicted to Pornography?

ANSWER:

With the Internet now easily accessible through mobile phones and the growing number of mobile porn pay sites, photo/video apps, and sexting, teens view porn through so many mediums that it is almost impossible to monitor everything. Parents are less able to police their teen’s access to porn than ever before. The dangers become more serious when teens go from “curious” viewing to regular, daily use and addiction. Porn addiction meaning that with prolonged exposure and tolerance increase, it leads to general loss of control, the compulsiveness to seek out pornography despite negative consequences, and withdrawal when it goes away.

So here are six proactive action steps parents can take to help their teen who is struggling and addicted to pornography.

1.) BE OPEN AND TALK ABOUT IT.
Stop ignoring or denying the problem, avoid tiptoeing around the subject and treating pornography as a secret sin that only a minority of people are struggling with. Many kids who are addicted to pornography deal with their struggles in secret, which just adds fuel to the fire. View pornography addiction similarly as other addictions so open up honest, multiple conversations about your teen’s pornography struggles. Be proactive by approaching your teens and openly discussing porn’s addictive dangers, reasons for viewing pornographic images and videos, and their emotions/thoughts connected to what they view on the Internet and visualize later. A key to your teen’s willingness to open up and accept their addiction problem is your supportive attitude.

2.) BE COMPASSIONATE & TRANSPARENT
Shame, guilt, confusion, embarrassment, and humiliation are emotions teens experience during their addiction. For many teenage boys and girls who are entangled with pornography, feel unbearable amounts of shame for it, feel fearful to tell anyone, and become caught up in the web of addiction, avoid shaming. Shaming and stigmatizing their struggles will shut them down emotionally and verbally. Compassionate love and understanding will likely lead your teen to disclose the full story.

Compassion is also transparency. Share with them your own past struggles with pornography as a teen or even in your adulthood. Talk specifically about the temptations you faced, the negative feelings you dealt with, and the problems it caused you. Disclose the personal battles you fought and ways you overcame. Teens seek out understanding as much as attention. They seek out someone who can relate more than someone who constantly lectures can. Transparency will help them understand that they are not alone with their emotions and struggles.

3.) BE PREPARED & KNOWLEDGABLE
Better acquaint yourself with the technology that gives your teens access to porn. Understand how they get it, where they store it on their mobile devices, and the filtering services that can help control it. Have your teens cite and explain the websites that are not all as known in the social media world. In addition, do your own research on the effects of porn addiction. Learn about the long-term dangers of porn include desensitizing and dehumanizing women, unrealistic and perverted views of sexual relationships, and sexual problems for adults. Understanding these and other consequences plus the technological world that captures teens will increase knowledge and ability to support your teen.

4.) BE PATIENT: “It’s an illness.”
Many parents view pornography as a behavior that should be punished and will go away easily rather than a serious illness that takes time to recover. Understand that this addiction will not go away immediately and realistically expect difficulties and relapses occurring in recovery. Just as you may encourage and support a teen going through the trials of cancer, view pornography addiction in the same way-in the good times of abstinence or the worst times of relapse, support your teen through patience.

5) BE ACCOUNTABLE- CREATE A CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY IN & OUTSIDE YOUR HOME
Take a leading role in encouraging an environment of loving accountability in the home, showing sympathy for present struggles while setting appropriate limits on mobile devices and home computers. Install necessary filter software on all mobile devices with a clear expectation that there is no room for privacy when it comes to harmful content online. Set together specific rules and limits such as computer use outside homework, cell phone limited use, internet use only in shared living areas in home, and reviewing history of visited websites. Boundaries and rules should also be set and discussed with addictive behavior outside the home. Consequences through a behaviorally contract is one way to uphold an agreement and demonstrate accountability.

Accountability also entails having regular talks with your teen- checking in on their progress. It also means getting them involved in support groups in the community, treatment agencies or at school. Remember that dialogue does not begin and end with one discussion, but it is a process without a timetable.

6.) SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
Professional help with a licensed therapist is also critical. Parents can do all the above but will gain tremendously by a therapist’s expertise on addiction and recovery. The skills and insight gained through therapy whether individual, group, and even family, can be a needed and effective resource. Therapists can also provide you the knowledge and education on how to better support and help your teen.

Mark A. Molina MA LCPC
Therapist
Fox Valley Institute For Growth and Wellness
640 N. River Rd, Suite #108
Naperville, IL, 60563
Ph (630) 718-0717 ext. 204 Fax (630) 718-0747
www.fvinstitute.com

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What Can Parents Do to Battle Internet Pornography?

ANSWER:

Parents are often not aware of the increasingly accessible sexually explicit content through the internet pornography sites and cyber sex outlets. The discussion of sex and sexuality is an uncomfortable topic. Furthermore, sex is often learned and understood through the media, social media, and children’s peers. Parents may be naïve or be in denial that sex sites, such as pornography sites can lend themselves to create an addiction among children. As a result of avoiding the potentially awkward conversations concerning sex, the behavior is enabled and in effect reinforced.

Internet pornography can be actively combated through parents and children seeking to open communication channels regarding sex, sexuality and curiosity concerning sex through holding conversations about sex and how to maintain a safe internet exploring environment. Creating a safe internet environment can be achieved by consistently monitoring child internet activities or asking child if they have questions or concerns regarding material that may exist on the internet. Talking about sex and its various manifestations on the internet and various outlets can create anxiety among parents, but opening communication and establishing an atmosphere of trust about sex can function as a combatant against pornography addiction and sexual predation.

Unawareness concerning pornography addiction and sexual predation that occurs via internet access stems from:
• Parents lacking the knowledge and awareness of how easily accessible sexually explicit sites are for children to access.
• The avoidance of conversations concerning sexuality and sexual curiosity between parents and their children.
• Lack of censoring the children’s computer usage.
• The issue exists from the reality that sex is learned through media outlets such as television, social media, or is learned and understood through peer conversations.
• This is a topic that at the present time families and society are reluctant to further discuss the topic and how sexualized society has become.

Roberto Peña, Jr., MSW, LCSW, CADC
Therapist
Fox Valley Institute
640 N. River Road, Suite 108
Naperville, IL 60563
t. 630.718.0717 ext. 220
f. 630.718.0747
roberto@fvinstitute.com

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What Is Sextortion?

ANSWER:

Detective Rich Wistocki
High Technology Crimes Unit
Naperville Police Department
1350 Aurora Avenue
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 305-5384

 

What is Sextortion?

 Sextortion is defined as when a child is talking to whom they believe is another child on a variety of social media and they exchange risqué photos that are not sexting.  The extorter then uses that risqué photo to extort your child to send a sexual picture, telling them that if they don’t comply the risqué photo will be sent to their entire contact list.  The child is often afraid to tell their parents, fearing consequences, and so complies with the request for a sexual picture.

Do not allow your child to become involved with sextortion. Open communication with your child by having a conversation.  Let them know that if someone wants them to do something that they don’t feel comfortable with online they need to come to you without any consequences.

The Golden Ticket – explain that if someone makes your child uncomfortable, instead of doing something they will regret later, they need to work through it with you.  This opens the door to good communication with your child when they are online or on their cell phone.  It is very important that your child can trust you to make a good decision.

Being popular on social media is everything to a child. Understand this and the types of software available for monitoring their online activities.

 

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