Absolute Denial: “No not my child! My son doesn’t look at porn online.” “My daughter would never send a naked picture of herself.”
Very recently a young teenage girl was lured into a meeting with a college man on the messaging app Kik and she was killed. This tragic event has spurned a barrage of news articles and blogs about the dangers of the app Kik and what parents need to know. While these blogs and news articles are helpful, they are a little late.
Moment of honesty. Sometimes I get really upset at parents. Truly, I don’t get angry at parents, I get upset at denial. Kik is not new. Other messaging apps like Kik are not new. Those of us who work in the field and deal with cybersex issues have been talking about Kik and other messaging apps for a really long time. If you read a newspaper or see any online news, you know that these types of apps are all over the news. I find it hard to believe that parents don’t know that these things exist. Unfortunately, many parents are stuck in DENIAL.
Denial is a concept with which anyone who works with addiction or knows an addict is familiar. Addiction author Terrance Gorski identifies 12 types of denial (http://www.tgorski.com/clin_mod/dmc/denial_checklist.htm). An addict in denial won’t admit they have a problem, to themselves or others. Denial is not just a problem of addiction. I see Parental Denial frequently in the work that we do with sex addiction and cybersex issues.
So what do I mean by parental denial. Parental denial is a place that many parents, even aware parents, live when they think about their child’s engagement in cybersex or use of online pornography. I have encountered countless smart, aware, on-top-of-things parents, who categorically deny that their child has seen online pornography, sent a sext, received a sext, or engaged in some type of sexual activity on an app. Because of this denial, parents don’t talk to their children about their digital media use.
When their child gets into the therapy room, we find out that, yes, in fact, they have seen pornography online. Sometimes they are looking at it A LOT. Most of the time we find out that they have been sent a sexual message, though they may not have sent one back. They message all the time on a number of apps, so many in fact, that it is hard for someone over about 16 to keep up. These parents think that because they have smart, responsible, and kind children, these children would not engage in anything related to cybersex. Facts are facts. These may be great, wonderful teens but they are still teens. Teens are subject to peer pressure and the desire to fit in. The teenage brain is not yet fully developed, leaving them at the mercy of impulsiveness and often poor decision making skills.
Wouldn’t it be better if we all worked from the assumption that all teens have been or will be exposed to sexual material in the digital world. That way, it should become a PRIORITY to talk to your children about sex, sexuality and cybersex. If you are open with your child and talk about these issues, you are engaging in the best kind of prevention there is. Openness. Honesty. Acknowledging sexuality as a part of humanness that does not need to be shamed and can be discussed openly.
It upsets me to think of how many parents have become aware of their child’s cybersex engagement through law enforcement or school officials, particularly when it is avoidable. . If parents engage in open discussion with their children, the number of children exposed to scandal, legal charges or even physical harm will surely decrease.
To learn more about talking to your child about cybersex, please go to The New Age of Sex Education.