Krista Swanson: Tech Mummy



Are your kids doing it?

 (Warning – this post contains explicit language.)

My friend asked me if it was possible that her daughter was sexting. Gulp.

Like many of you, she bought her two tween daughters iPhones for Christmas. Like many of you, she hadn’t set rules for what the phone is ‘supposed’ to be used for, but she also hadn’t really thought about the real implications of her daughters being fully connected to a network of friends when the parental units are not around.

Sexting is defined on Wikipedia as “the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones.” On urban dictionary it’s defined as “the act of text messaging someone in the hopes of having a sexual encounter with them later.”  The truth of the matter is if a kid is underage and sending or receiving photos—even of themselves—with naked breasts, genitals or bottoms it could potentially violate child pornography laws. Serious stuff right?

Before you panic, what you should know is that recent studies have found kids aren’t hiding in their closets to send racy text messages or naked photos of themselves nearly as much as the media is making them out to be.

In a recent study by the University of New Hampshire :

“UNH researchers surveyed 1,560 Internet users ages 10 through 17 about their experiences with sexting -- appearing in, creating, or receiving sexual images or videos via cell phone or the Internet. The study found that 2.5 percent of youth surveyed have participated in sexting in the past year, but only 1 percent involved images that potentially violate child pornography laws -- images that showed “naked breasts, genitals or bottoms.”

While talking about it my friend commented, “well, if they are texting and aren’t actually having sex I think I’m cool with it. No chance of my daughter coming home with a pregnant cell phone or an STD.”

I guess she makes a valid point, but as I mentioned before, in this information age, anything someone posts/texts could eventually come back to haunt them.  A text message could be spread around the school, or a photo could end up on facebook .

My friend then asked me how we could work with her daughters to create an ‘acceptable use policy’ for cell phone usage in her house. 

Here is what we came up with:

Ground rules for cell phone usage—by Mom

 If I pay the bill, I own the phone. This means I have the right to spot check. I want to respect your privacy, but it’s important for me to make sure you are safe, and for you to understand that in the ‘real world’ if your employer is paying for your phone they will be doing the same. If you are paying for it yourself, I still need to know that I can check up on you for your safety. I won’t read every message, but have the right as your parent to spot check when my gut tells me I need to.

 If you are sending or receiving texts or photos you don’t feel comfortable with, you need to talk to me. Please don’t wait, talk to me right away before it gets out of control. I will be more upset if something happens to you than I will be if I find out you’ve been sexting. My goal in life is to keep you safe.  If you don’t feel comfortable talking to me, call Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868

 All cell phones in our house are to be docked at the charging station by the front door after supper. This includes the parents.  This will give us more time to talk to each other, and spend time as a family.

 Your words and actions are an extension of your body. I love you and respect you, and I expect you and the people around you to do the same.

We printed the policy and put it on the fridge, then started talking about how a parent can tell that someone is sexting.  

Kids are smart. Teens are smarter. And that feeling you get when you ask where the PB&J sandwich disappeared to (you know, the feeling that puts your body on auto-pilot and walks you right to the couch cushion) is the same feeling that should drive you to check their cell phones.

My friend said “I can hardly understand when she’s texting me normally, how the heck am I going to be able to dissect a sext conversation?”

Well, chances are you know the standard texting phrases, but here are some common sexting and instant messaging phrases you might want to watch out for.

8 Oral Sex

143 I Love You

cu46 See You For Sex

DUM Do You Masturbate?

GNOC Get Naked On Cam

GYPO Get Your Pants Off

GNRN Get Naked right Now  

IWS I Want Sex

RUH Are You Horny?

TDTM Talk Dirty To Me

 S2R Send To Receive

NIFOC Naked In Front Of Computer

PAW Parents Are Watching

PIR Parent In Room

POS Parent Over Shoulder

YWS You Want Sex

WYCM Will You Call Me

It’s time to involve sexting with ‘the talk.’ Kids need to know that sharing text or photos that are sexually explicit can hurt them. They need to understand that predators are smart, and if they do what this creepo  was doing, they can get involved in something that most adults couldn’t even handle.  

So, tell me, what are your thoughts on sexting?  What would you do if you caught some of the codes above on your childs phone? Do you talk to your kids about how they use their cell phones?