Sunday Mornings with Rania: Important Conversations with Teens

Mom and Dad:

This post is for you and for me. It's a challenge to take this time of slowing down and giving thanks to have some important, and very real, conversations with your teens and college students home for this holiday break.

What to talk about? We have many suggestions, but one topic comes to mind: sexting.

Wait! Keep reading! This is not a new trend but it's still just as relevant and scary today. The practice has evolved with kids moving on from partial nudes to full nudity shots. Why are teens doing this? Because they live, breathe and fully engage via that smartphone in their hands. Even when alone, they spend their time taking photos, editing photos and keeping photos of themselves. So, whether these photos are for themselves or to send to a girl/boyfriend or online stranger, it's of course, critically dangerous.

Here's what to talk about with your teens:

  • Nude photos should never be taken, even if only for personal use. They can and will end up in the hands of someone you didn't intend. At this point, that's a fact.
  • Don't think that hiding these photos in hidden apps protects you. It doesn't. Don't take them.
  • They are illegal and considered child pornography. You break the law by sending and simply receiving them.
  • Once these photos are in the hands of someone you didn't intend, you enter a very dangerous situation that goes something like this: I have your naked photo. I'm sure your parents would kill you if they knew you took it. I won't show anyone as long as you take another photo and send it to me. Fearing YOU, time after time, the teen will do what is asked. Soon, she will be told to move from photos to videos.

What parents should do:

Parents, go through this entire scenario with your child. Walk through the options. Make sure they realize they should never be blackmailed. Yes, an inappropriate photo sets them up for embarrassment and hardship BUT, together, you and they will get through it. You love them more than you could ever be upset; their fear of disappointing you should never lead them to be a target of this activity.

Teens and college students are dealing with a whole new world of issues. Crime Stoppers is aware of this and wants to empower them to rise above the risks and make the most of this special time in their lives. With that in mind, we recently launched a Youth Media Advisory Council that gathers smart teens from a variety of high schools and colleges and brings them together to talk about real issues and seeks their input on a solution. Additionally, we partner these teens and college students with opportunities to blog about their ideas, join us on radio or even TV segments when appropriate.

The theory is that together, we can reach a wider audience and promote the safety of youth everywhere. If you have a teen or student who is interested, make sure to contact me at rmankarious@crime-stoppers.org (link sends e-mail). I personally want to hear about them as we build our esteemed Youth Media Advisory Council.

As we get ready to give thanks together, is there anything on earth you are more thankful for than your children? They are worth every word and every effort to keep safe. It doesn't matter what school they are enrolled in. It doesn't matter what zip code they sleep in. Their safety relies on you and the conversations you are willing to have with them. Let's collectively have them, together.

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston