This morning I was met with giggling and sheepish eye darting when both of my young adult children with questionable prefrontal cortices were telling me about their 17-year-old overnight guest last weekend who shared nothing less than a graphic video of anal sex downloaded from the internet. My kids were intrigued and scandalized at the same time. Both anxiously talked over one another, telling their similar versions of the same story, and how they independently got up and went to their respective rooms as soon as they realized what they were seeing. If this is true (and it seemed so), their mutual response was actually unusual.
I dare say many attachment-challenged children with poor executive function (as well as plenty of securely attached children with developing executive function), depending on age, would also be at once intrigued and scandalized. Also, they may be compelled to engage, watch repeatedly, and share further in the form of acting out what was seen–sexting it out, and possibly getting into serious hot water taking it all too far.
I encourage you to talk with all of your kids starting in 6th grade about texting rules and family expectations. While you are at it, share the law and legal consequences of sexting. Twenty percent of middle-schoolers with cell phones have received sexts. If your third grader happens to have access to one, then beware. This sexting abuse is happening at younger and younger ages all the time.
When my daughter was 14-years-old, she borrowed my cell phone for a quick call to a friend that lasted only five or so minutes. Later in the evening, from that school friend, I received a follow-up sext of his erect penis, up close and way too naked. I have no idea what she sent possibly prompting his sext, and it didn’t matter. She was 14, and he was 18. He committed a crime. The rest is history.
If your child is exhibiting poor judgment in other areas, you can assume the cell phone will be no exception. Set boundaries and keep them. It is okay for safety purposes to invade the privacy of a minor. No child NEEDS a cell phone. Every child NEEDS protection from him/herself when continually behaving unreliably and irresponsibly.
Sometimes we have to lend our brain power to our children while theirs is still under functioning. That may go on throughout the teen years well into young adulthood.
Breathe, dear parents, and carry on.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
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Raising kids in the age of technology–yikes.