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I need to talk to them about sexting - how? Help please

(70 Posts)
TheOriginalSteamingNit Mon 28-Jan-13 14:18:41


I looked in my dd's diary yesterday - not proud, very ashamed, wish I hadn't but maybe it's for the best. Her boyfriend (they are ELEVEN) has sent her some dubious messages and photos - without going into too much detail, it's not on. It is unclear what she's sent him, if anything, but I'm worried.

Things now click into place - she's started closing her door at night when she used to like it open, she has her iPod touch with her at all times, she hides the screen from anyone else in the room. I thought she was just growing up, but I now think it's probably not so innocent.

This is a child who's always been terribly earnest and innocent - I am utterly taken aback, and I feel very conscious of having let her down and not covered this properly. Her sister is older, but having just been googling recent articles and statistics on this, I think she probably needs the talk too.

However, I can't kick off by saying I've read her diary - I know some might say I should, but I'm not going to. But I do obviously need to talk to her. I'm thinking - and hoping it won't be too transparent - of saying I heard a thing on Woman's Hour about this and that it made me think I ought to speak to them about it: do they know what sexting is, do they know how serious.... etc.

What do you reckon?
I don't need to be told I've been getting this wrong - I know. I'm ashamed and very concerned, and now I want to do whatever is best.

skyblue11 Wed 13-Feb-13 15:55:59

Maryz, I too have seen really shockingly pornographic messages that stunned me. I worry about the future of these, and some are to people she hasn't met in real life just friends of friends, it seems the norm like you say but I was mortified!

mummytime Tue 05-Feb-13 17:16:37

At my DCs school a girl and a couple of boys were taken for questioning by the police over an exchange of photos. A little more serious than the ones your DD had exchanged OP; but you could tell your DD about this.

Schools in my experience are getting better about talking to pupils about this kind of thing (and can be a good source of information on what is going to happen next).

My kids devices are all banned from the internet after a certain time, but mine can still MN.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 05-Feb-13 16:49:20

A little update - and thanks again for replies and help.

We told her she wasn't having the iPod any more after bedtime as concerned about lack of sleep and that it wasn't appropriate for her to have it unsupervised so much and so late. She didn't appreciate this, as you might expect, but has handed it over without a murmur every night since.

She still messages a lot, but I make a point of being around in a more visible way whilst she does - I think we now need to find the right balance between allowing for the fact that she naturally doesn't want us vetting every single thing she says, and is naturally quite a reserved and private person, and on the other hand, staying on the ball and keeping an eye.

I've checked her facebook twice since last week - first one was full of messages to him along the lines of 'I fucking hate my mum, she is sitting right there and I want to hit her' etc... today it seems all their messages are more along the lines of ' xxxxxoooooooooooooooxxxxxxxxxxxxxx did you see when Joe did that in Science, I love you no I love you more'. Of course I'd be more comfortable if it were more about Joe in Science and less lurve, but we'll cope.

School emailed, and the head of year rang this afternoon to let me know that all Year 7 had had an assembly about these issues this morning, and to ask whether I thought there were any individuals who needed a specific talk. Because I just said that I didn't want to go into detail but it had become apparent that this kind of messaging was catching on amongst the year 7s and thought they should be aware. So that's all good.

And the best thing of all is that the facebook snoop shows me that he is now also banned from using his iPod or tablet after 8.30 grin. I think perhaps his household have had a similar last week to ours....

Maryz Wed 30-Jan-13 18:25:55

I keep telling my kids that secret. Especially in Ireland where we have the "romeo and juliet" law where if two underage kids are caught having sex, the boy can be prosecuted but the girl can't hmm.

As far as I can see, the boy will always be blamed and punished. Obviously a lot of the time the boy is to blame, but in many cases he isn't wholely at fault.

I have told dd that until she is 17, any boy she has sex with can be put on the sex offenders register - and I have warned ds2 who is 14 to remember that in Ireland sex with a girl under 17 is a crime punishable by prison, even if she is older than him.

I hate having to use scare tactics, but I fear they are the only things that will get through.

secretscwirrels Wed 30-Jan-13 15:41:30

Maryz I was horrified at the double standards applied in the case I posted about above. A number of girls had sent explicit pictures of themselves to this boy, he had not sent any of himself. He had encouraged it for sure and deserved to be punished but he was treated much more harshly than the girls, including threats of being put on sex offenders register.
I just feel that parents of need to warn their sons that they will take the brunt of the blame should they be stupid (or unlucky) enough to get involved in this stuff.

notso Wed 30-Jan-13 13:18:51

TheOriginalSteamingNit How did the talk with DD go? Hope it wasn't too bad for you both.
Have you heard anything from the school?

FlipFlopFloss Wed 30-Jan-13 00:30:48

Its so worrying all this isnt it.

My DDs 12 and 14 tell me to stop repeating myself but I tell them every horror story I hear about sexting.

Considering they roll their eyes because being 12 and 14 they know it all of course and what does ancient old mum know - they did seem a bit horrified at the suggestion that pics sent in texting could easily do the rounds at school and are out there for ever and ever and ever.

I hope the fear and potential humiliation will put them off wanting to send such pics of themselves but I darent be that naive.

I dont allow my girls to take their gadgets and phones upstairs ever.

BoringSchoolChoiceNickname Tue 29-Jan-13 23:49:30

I'd find a good, memorable, true, cautionary story to tell your DD about how wrong these things can go. Strong narratives have a power that no amount of abstract lectures from Mum can match. Tulisa's little problem leaps to mind, but a) it's a bit explicit for an 11 year old and b) it's too easily dismissed by "Her mistake was that she picked a nasty boyfriend - my bf is lovely so that could never happen to me" you need a story where the bf is an idiot with poor data privacy but not obviously evil.

Maryz Tue 29-Jan-13 23:27:16

I brought it into a debate about youngsters sending inappropriate pictures to each other. and suggested that the op could point out to her daughter that the sending (or receiving) of such photographs is looked on very dimly by schools and can be referred to as child pornography.

I also pointed out that it is worth telling girls that boys are treated much more harshly for this type of thing (in general) than girls are, and used a few true examples to illustrate my point.

At which point you inferred that it was fair enough that boys should be treated more harshly, as it was a fair punishment for centuries of abuse [baffled]. I happen to think it is not fair - the perpetrator should be punished, not the victim, regardless of gender. And that boys can (and are) "victims" of sexting, just as much as girls.

PuffPants Tue 29-Jan-13 23:24:54

What's your point MrsMushroom? That an 11 yr old girl sending nude photos to a boy should not be reprimanded?

MrsMushroom Tue 29-Jan-13 22:46:04

Maryz this is not about your son. You brought him into a debate. And a girl of 11 or 12 sending a nude picture to a boy is hardly equal to centuries of abuse. hmm

Maryz Tue 29-Jan-13 22:14:36

Not by my son they haven't.

That is a ridiculous reason to blame boys for girls' bad behaviour shock.

And it's appalling to let girls think they can get away with what we have been trying to stop men doing for years.

MrsMushroom Tue 29-Jan-13 21:56:30

For years girls have been groped, verbally abused and belittled within schools. YEARS> There was a thread on MN once where women came on and gave stories of it...what had happened to them in school...the amount of horrible tales was astounding.

Yet many schools still refuse to take it as seriously as racial abuse. It's illegal to call someone a racially motivated hate-word but you can call me a slag any day you want.

Imo it's better to lean towards protecting the girls. They've had the shitty end of the stick for centuries.

Maryz Tue 29-Jan-13 20:54:30

I know that, MrsMushroom. But in this case it was not the case - ds had never even spoken to the girl, and she followed up the pictures by a series of messages until he blocked her.

It isn't always the boys' fault.

But ime, the school will always take the side of the "vulnerable" girl. In ds's year the girls are a million miles ahead of the boys from a sexual point of view, many are "going out" with boys from the year ahead, and he feels very out of his depth sometimes. And yet, any incidences like this, and the boy is the one expelled.

The whole episode really upset him. He did nothing wrong, at all. And I know that, because I went through his ipod with a toothcombe, and saw all the messages from her.

The "female race" may get their just desserts hmm on average, but single incidents in schools often leave the boys very unjustly treated. There were a boy and girl (same age) caught having sex in a local school recently. Boy was expelled. Girl was sent for counselling.

MrsMushroom Tue 29-Jan-13 19:11:07

Maryz research shows that in many instances, boys ask girls to send them pics and sometimes bully them into it. Not in ALL cases naturally but in many.

And Maryz I wouldn't worry too much about girls not receiving their just desserts for things like this....the female race is told daily that they're worthless unless they look a certain way....and also subjected to unwanted advances, verbal and sexual abuse. That's enough punishment I should think.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 29-Jan-13 18:24:34

I have informed school, as mentioned earlier. I do not know his parents. I haven't seen the photo (s), but deduce it was his chest and pants elastic above waistband. We have spoken, the iPod is banned after bedtime.

Maryz Tue 29-Jan-13 18:20:55

ds has just survived an incident where he was sent (unsolicited) suggestive photographs by a younger (13 year old) girl.

Luckily, he had the sense to delete them (he didn't even know who she was when he got them - she was a friend of a friend on facebook), but still got into trouble with the school for not reporting that he had received them.

Interestingly, the boys who received the photographs got more severe sanctions than the girl who had sent them (of herself). And one boy sent them on to a friend of the girl's (to prove he had them, apparently), who then sent them to a whole load of older boys (at which point the shit really hit the fan).

I found it interesting that had ds sent a naked photograph of himself to a girl it would have been an expulsion from school offence, but a girl sending one to him meant that she was "troubled" and "needed help" hmm. Which she probably does, but even so, she also needs to be told it isn't acceptable behaviour.

It might be worth pointing out to your dd that her "boyfriend" might end up on the sex offenders register for possessing child porn on his phone (that was what ds was threatened with angry, even though he deleted the photographs immediately, messaged her that he had deleted them, and blocked her from his facebook). That might make your dd think more carefully.

shine0ncrazydiamond Tue 29-Jan-13 18:17:27

Agree with mrsM. You must tell his parents and the school. After all, you'd want to know if you were them wouldn't you?

MrsMushroom Tue 29-Jan-13 16:41:58

It is shocking and it's also potentially illegal as we're talking about children's bodies being photographed (allbeit by themselves) which is technically child pornography.

Apparently it's grey area but if you went to the school it would be taken VERY seriously indeed.

shine0ncrazydiamond Tue 29-Jan-13 16:13:23

I kind of missed the photos bit.

I would be informing the school and his parents. He sent a photo of his 'bits? ' At the age of 11? Man, I'd go nuclear!

secretscwirrels Tue 29-Jan-13 16:02:31

A boy was permanently excluded from a local school and several girls were suspended. Even though the activity took place outside school.
So not all schools shrug and say "it happens"

CheeseStrawWars Tue 29-Jan-13 14:48:20

I dread DD hitting the teenage (or even pre-teenage!) years. I can't speak from experience but can you ask her why she thinks he wants these pictures? He's not going to stare lovingly into the eyes of her photo, is he? That's not what boys want topless photos for... And once he's got photos in digital form, how would she feel if those photos got seen by his mates? Or if one of his mates snatched the boys phone off him and then sent the picture round loads of other people. Has she thought this through? Does she like the idea of him - or random people - 'objectifying' her? Could you make it a broader conversation about objectification and respect, and sidle up on it that way?

Also, maybe have a chat with her about making sure things move at a pace she's happy with - it sounds like he keeps pushing for more than he's getting and she's not really dealing with it directly, just changing the subject? If she says no and he calls her frigid or whatever... he's not the boy for her. (Not that any boy should be for her at 11, but you get what I mean... boys should respect her, she should respect herself and not be afraid to say no.)

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 29-Jan-13 14:43:53

Sorry, a few posts in the meantime.

I think she should be allowed a diary in which she can vent, in which she can say her sister is a bitch and sometimes she hates her parents, and she didn't do very well at a Maths test, and feel that it is private. I don't think though that it is as simple as me thinking 'well dd is entitled to privacy, so I wash my hands of it and don't look', any more than I think all her thoughts, feelings and indeed messages are up for grabs.

sandy haven't seen - I think his chest and some of his bits, but I can't see them.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Tue 29-Jan-13 14:40:35

Nothing is 100%, is it? Ban the iPod after bedtime - they spend suspiciously long times in the bathroom with it earlier. Tell them they are simply not to have a 'boyfriend' - they take no notice and spend all day together at school anyway. Keep their fb password, be their friend on facebook, don't let them be on facebook - they create new accounts and don't tell you.

I do think you have to balance pragmatics, discipline, honesty and safety, and I do think that with some extreme reactions there's a danger that you can cultivate an atmosphere of worse secrecy and deceit than ever. I've seen it go that way too.

shine0ncrazydiamond Tue 29-Jan-13 14:38:25

You also say that you are very ashamed to have looked at her diary. Why? Again, you're doing your job. You are not snooping at your 17 year old DDs journal - you'd be on dodgy ground there! But your young child.

I'd assert and whip this stuff off her once and for all and brace yourself for the moaning

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