First, understand that the young people in your care are “digital natives.” They are growing up with abilities and the tools to use them that some of us aren’t even aware of. New apps and programs are being created that allow kids to secretly access information and communication that is hidden from the adults in their lives. Prevention is optimum. You can do that by clearly addressing use of electronics before there is a problem.
Here are some suggestions for healthy responses to sexting:
- Calm down. Pause and take a deep breath before you do or say anything.
- Never shame the young person. Instead, explain the dangers of sending pictures that can get into the hands of anyone and that can never be retrieved off the internet.
- Respond in terms of safety of the young person, saying something like, “This kind of behavior could result in terrible pain for you. I care about you and want to help you stay safe.”
- Put some time between the event and the correction. When everyone is calmed down, explain how the behavior can lead to dangerous and painful situations.
- Teach the young person critical thinking skills by asking for ideas on what he or she could do differently in the future.
- If you issue consequences, make sure they are directly related to the offense. For example, if the young person’s inappropriate behavior involves a phone, restrict use of the phone.
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