As our communities begin to approach the end of the now two-year pandemic, teens will once again be spending less time with their families and more time with their peers. Therefore, as part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month this February, parents must continue to take an active role in their teen’s daily lives by initiating meaningful conversations.
Because adolescents are often placed in contentious or uncomfortable situations, typically by those they know and trust, it is our job as adults to make sure they know what to do without being afraid to ask for help. Ever since our way of life changed due to Covid lockdowns and restrictions, teenagers have been increasingly living in a virtual world; one that is even more susceptible to human trafficking, stalking, bullying, and sexting. The more today’s youth use digital devices to interact, play video games, or date, the more they must be made aware of the inherent dangers, as well as the potential consequences, of these inappropriate behaviors.
When speaking with your children, make sure they understand it is not only unhealthy but also illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess or distribute inappropriate sexual material; even if both parties claim the exchange was consensual. While this subject matter may be awkward or difficult for some families to discuss, especially in light of society attempting to normalize such behavior, the ramifications can last a lifetime; including the emotional trauma from public embarrassment that may tarnish their reputation or negatively impact future relationships. The moment teens send lewd messages, pictures, or videos to friends or dating partners, they rarely consider the fact that complete strangers may access or download this sensitive information. And once that questionable text or photo is sent, even if later deleted, they’re at the mercy of the internet, if not the legal system. This immediate loss of control can lead to bullying, violence, depression, suicidal thoughts, or in some cases, addiction.
The best way parents can empower their teens to avoid these common mistakes is by openly talking with them, monitoring their devices, and by modeling healthy behaviors in all their personal relationships. If any of these conversations are too overwhelming or you just need some additional information, please feel free to contact SOS at 800-825-1295. We will do our part to ensure our next generation of leaders, educators, and parents are not left to the whims of chance, or better yet, the latest fad on the internet.