Teens have always used available technology to explore their emerging sexuality. The technology has changed since we were teens, and the consequences of impulsive behavior today can be even more serious and harmful. You wouldn’t hand over the keys to your car without making sure your kid knows the rules of the road and can drive safely.
Parent Chat | Taming Screen Time
Screens are necessary for everyday life especially for our school-ages kids. Screens are here to stay. Sheri Gazitt from Teen Wise talks about screen time and how to talk about this with your kids. .
Parent Chat | Prepare Your Kids to Explore Safely in a Digital World
Sex educator Jo Langford advises parents to prepare your kids for the online world in a similar way: talk about your values, make sure your kids are media literate, prepare them for what they’ll find out there, and let them know that you’ll be involved as they learn to navigate safely.
Takeaway for Parents
* Prepare your kids for “sexts”: Most girls will get a “dick pick” sent to them, and at an earlier age than you might think. Preparing them for it can help blunt the impact of getting an image unexpectedly. Make sure girls know that they do not need to reciprocate. Teach boys appropriate ways to flirt and let them know that sexting as a way of flirting is often experienced as repulsive to girls.
* Teach your kids the law: The only legal way to exchange nude images is between consenting adults. Creating, sharing and possessing images of parts covered by a swimsuit is a felony when minors are involved. The law views this as child pornography.
* Make sure your kids are literate about pornography. Let them know that the images they might see there are not realistic and can lead to false and harmful expectations. Let older kids know that it’s important to develop their own imagination for healthy relationships; it can be damaging to let porn control their imagination. These conversations might be awkward; have them anyway. Try talking side by side while riding in a car or playing video games. Humor can help too.
- Jo Langford’s website has a collection of his books (Spare Me the Talk, and The Pride Guide), his 411 app for teens, and downloads of internet safety contracts. His app 411 contains resource for teens to get quick help with safety issues that they may be too embarrassed to ask parents.
- Age appropriate books about sex by Robie Harris: It’s Not the Stork, It’s So Amazing!, and It’s Perfectly Normal.
- Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen A. Jenson
- More great books, videos, and resources at Amy Lang’s Birds+Bees+Kids
Social media is not all bad. It can help teens organize to change the world and help them find their tribe. But there are dangers too. We wouldn’t hand over the keys to our car without preparing our teen to drive safely. Similarly, we’re responsible for helping our kids learn to safely navigate the online world.
Parent Chat | The Impact of Social Media
Scilla Andreen, the director of the film LIKE, spoke with Sheri Gazitt about how we can empower our kids to use social media in ways that support their mental health and wellbeing.
Takeaway for Parents
* Talk to your kids about their values. Explore what it means to act on them in their relationship with screens and their behavior online. As in other aspects of their lives, their core values will be their guiding light when they encounter virtual dark alleys.
* Consider creating a contract together that outlines your values and agreements about phone usage and social media (ideally before handing your child a phone, but it’s never too late. If scientists can change their recommendations based on new information, parents can too!)
* Talk about strategies that will help your kids take back control of their screen behavior and create balanced, healthy lives for themselves:
- Aim for 20 minutes of “consumption” screen time (think Instagram and TikTok) for 2-3 times a day. Creative or educational uses of screens don’t tend to lead to regret later.
- Instead of limiting screen time, aim for 3 hours NOT on screens a day.
- Create a meaningful life offline. After a year of pandemic, it might take some intention to seek out ways to engage in real world activities again.
- Charge your phone outside your bedroom and keep computers with cameras out of bedrooms (or inside with the door open).
- Watch a trailer of LIKE.
- LIKE Resources Videos, helpful websites and articles to explore the themes raised in the movie LIKE further.
- Center for Humane Technology: Education and advocacy for technology use that supports human wellbeing and the public good.
- Common Sense Media: Information for parents to understand and set guidelines for media consumption.