Kids and Sexting; What’s a Parent to Do?

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Yesterday, I saw another story about a middle school in Wheaton, IL that is dealing with a sexting scandal (http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140609/news/140608605/).  You must know that historically Wheaton is a bastion of evangelical life and thought and this stuff is happening here!  As a parent and pastor, my heart breaks for these kids whose innocence are being ripped from them at such an early age.  We could blame technology, or we could blame the degredation of society.  We could blame teachers, parents and even the church.  There is plenty of blame to go around.  My question is what and how should Christian parents be teaching their kids in the face of these pressures and dangers?

Here are several principles that each parent should instill in their kids along with three suggestions for action.  When you talk to your kids, read the verses together.  Your children need to know that these aren’t Mom’s and Dad’s rules.  These are from God and His Word.
1.  You are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
You are more valuable than you can imagine.  God made you to be like Him.  He created us to be different than the animals.  He has a purpose for you that lasts forever.  And when we lower ourselves to misuse or mistreat what he created, we tarnish our value and diminish our purpose.
2.  Your body isn’t yours to do with as you wish. (1 Corinthians 6:12-19)
Christ paid a price for us.  His death on the cross makes us His.  And He died for our bodies and souls.  When we confess Him as Lord, it means that all we do belongs to Him.  If we are connected with Him in faith then when we sin we “connect” Him with our sin.
3.  Intimacy and modesty make you stronger and healthier.  (Genesis 2:24-25; 1 Timothy 2:9)
God created us to experience true intimacy with one other person.  Human sexuality was created as a gift to help a man and woman to become one!  Showing our nakedness to others ruins intimacy.  It makes us weaker.  And it makes it harder for us to have a real heart, mind, soul connection with our husband and wife later on.  If we protect our physical privacy, it will make intimacy easier to have later in life.
4.  We all experience the “law of diminishing returns.”  (Romans 1:21-32)
What makes our tummies tingle today won’t make them tingle tomorrow.  So, we’ll need to do something more in order to get the same thrill.  And that is how poeple get into so much trouble.  From secret texts, to graphic messages, to pictures exchanged, to physical experimentation, to pornography, to promiscuity, and abuse.
The longer you can stay off this dangerous path, the better you will be able to enjoy the real gifts God has given us.
(Here is one principle that isn’t clearly from Scripture, but is true nonetheless.)
5.  You will never get pictures you see out of your mind.
If you give a picture of yourself to someone, that person will never forget it.  Snapchat may make it disappear in a matter of seconds, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone.  Do you want that person remembering you and your private parts when they are 50 years old?  I don’t think so – that’s just gross!
Ladies, if you don’t believe this ask an honest man if he remembers the first time he saw a suggestive or pornographic picture.  I haven’t met one yet who doesn’t remember that image from a movie, a poster, a magazine, or in person.
Along with teaching these principles, there are some things we parents can do to promote a pattern of openness and honesty.
1.  Listen and watch for clues that something is going on.
Whenever kids are into something they shouldn’t be, there are clues.  Like with all of us, guilt has an impact on all areas of life.  Is your child becoming more quiet and withdrawn?  Is your child spending more time in his/her room?  Disengagement from family often means unhealthy engagement in other areas.  Has their attitudes toward school, friends, homework, church changed?  Ask open ended questions.  Spend time together.  Pull your child closer.
2.  Limit access to technology.
I may be seen as a fuddy-duddy, but my kids didn’t have a texting plan until they were in high school.  And for a long time, the phones stayed on the counter at night.  My kids didn’t have their own computer until they graduated high school.  We shared a family computer.  We look at their facebook.  We checked the browser histories.  Take the phones away often and when you are alone take time to look at them.  These things still didn’t eliminate all the danger or temptation.  But don’t risk your kids innocence for your own convenience.
3.  Set a “no secret” policy at home.
From early on, our kids could expect that we had the right of going through their computers, phones, and rooms.  At home, there is a no-secret policy.  When people keep secrets, whether adult or child, it is usually bad news.  My kids know they can go through my room, closet, drawers, computer accounts any time they choose.  And I can go through theirs.  Living in openness creates healthy accountability.  Certainly, as adults there are things we don’t openly share with our kids, like Mom’s and Dad’s private moments.  But I’m assured by my boys that there are things they don’t want to know!
I haven’t been a perfect Dad.  As a kid, I struggled with the things that were available.  And I know my kids have struggled at times.  We live in a fallen world.  Our responsibilities as parents in this modern world are to plant the principles of God’s Word in their hearts and minds; and limit the damage they can do to themselves and the damage the world will do to them.
What would you teach, or do to help a kid who is tempted with sexting?
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6 thoughts on “Kids and Sexting; What’s a Parent to Do?

  1. Pastor Jim, thank you very much for taking the time and care to write about this. As a mother of two soon to be middle aged girls I worry about these things and it’s so easy to get caught up worry. Thanks for redirecting my thoughts to what the Word says. I appreciate your article and it has been most helpful.

    Like

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