Three Things to Teach your Child About Safe Sexting

Sexting

If we choose to face reality, we know that teen sexting has become a normative part of adolescent culture.  Of course, not all adolescents are doing it, but many are sexting.  What we learned from the years of the “JUST SAY NO” campaign and more years of research is that preaching abstinence just doesn’t work.  If we want to protect children from the darker side of sexting, we need to educate and inform them about the practice, so they can make their own, hopefully well thought out, decisions.

What are the tenants of Safe Sexting?

  1. You are responsible for your own safety.
  2. Know the risk
  3. Know how to protect yourself

You are responsible for your own safety

 The digital world can be a risky place.  Aware parents will have talked to their children about online sexual activity and perhaps filtered or monitored devices such as phones or laptops.  However, no filter or monitor can truly protect a child from the risks of online sexual behavior.  Ultimately, your child is responsible for his or her own behavior online.  What they do or do not post, text, snap, etc.  is their own responsibility.

To help your child be more proactive about their online safety, here are some things to think about and talk to them about.  Before you send a picture or post, stop and count to ten.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I really want to send this picture or video?
  2. Do I feel pressured to take or send this image?
  3. Do I trust that the person I send this to will never share this image without my consent?

It is very true that many children, particularly girls, feel a great deal of pressure to participate in taking and sending sexual images.  There are also online predators who will groom, intimidate or threaten a young person to convince them to take pictures.  In these instances, there is no consent.  Coercion is never consent.

If your child chooses to engage in consensual sexting with a peer, they should truly want to take the image without feeling any pressure to do so.  They should also trust that, no matter what, the person they send the image to will not share the image.   If all of these parameters are met, then the sexting is consensual and if your child takes and sends an image, they are assuming responsibility for their actions.

Know the Risk

 Even in the case of consensual teen sexting there is a lot of risk.  In order to engage in safe sexting, the person doing it (adult or minor) needs to know the risk involved with the behavior.  So what are the risks?

Sexting as a minor may be illegal.  Every state has a different law regarding minors producing and sending illicit or sexual images.  The punishments for the behavior also vary from state to state.  In some cases, a child can be the producer and distributor of child pornography as well as the victim of the same crime.  Some states have decriminalized consensual sexting between two minors.  Know the law in your state and share that with your child.

Another risk is that someone you do not want to see your image may see your sexual image.  This is non-consensual sexting.  You may have sent a sexual image to someone with whom you are in a relationship.  This may have been consensual at the time.  Then, something goes wrong in the relationship, and you are not together.  Revenge porn is a real thing.  If the person you were dating changes their feelings or gets mad, they have an image that they can send out to every other person in high school or post to a revenge pornography site.  Anytime you send a sexual image there is always a risk that someone you do not want to see it will see it.  It is also possible that many, many people may see the image.

Protect Yourself

 In this arena of uncertainty, where something can go viral in the blink of an eye, how do you protect yourself?  Here are some guidelines to help your child protect themselves.

If you choose to consensually share a sexual image with someone, only send an image or video that you would not mind someone else seeing.  Are you ok with just anyone seeing you nude or engaged in a sexual act with someone?  If you are not okay with that, and choose to send an image, perhaps send a picture in a bathing suit or underwear.  I don’t want this to be read as advocating for teens sexting but for those who choose to do so, to send an image that the sender would not mind any and all to see.

If you choose to send a sexual image, only send an image to someone you trust.  Sending an image is a great act of trust as you lose control of that image the moment it is sent.  You need to truly and completely trust that the person you send it to won’t someday get mad at you and send it to all of his or her friends or post it online without your consent.

How do you know who you can trust?  To answer this, I will borrow from Brene Brown’s concept Anatomy of Trust otherwise known as BRAVING.  This can be applied to you or another.

  • Boundaries – The person you may send this image to always respects your  boundaries
  • Accountability – The person you may send this image to always owns their mistakes,  apologizes and makes amends
  • Integrity –   The person you may send this image to always acts with integrity, does what is right instead of what is easy or fun.
  • Reliability –  The person you may send this image to is reliable.  They always mean what they say and say what they do.
  • Vault-  The person you may send an image to NEVER shares things that are not his or hers to share.  They don’t gossip and they keep confidences.
  • Non-Judgment- The person you may send this to will not judge you.
  • Generosity-   The person you may send this image to will assume the most generous thoughts about your actions and intentions.

If the person you are thinking about sending a sexual image to does not meet the core pieces of the anatomy of trust, you may wish to rethink sending him or her a sexual image.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate that my intention here is not to encourage or glamorize the practice of sexting among adolescents.  My point is to be realistic.  If teens are going to engage in sexting we need to empower them with accurate information and guidance about how to do so safely.  Talking to your child about Safe Sexting arms them with information to make their own informed decisions.

For more information on how to talk to your child please see my book, The New Age of Sex Education: how to talk to your teen about cybersex and pornography in the digital age.

For more information on Dr. Weeks, Please see our website www.sexualaddictiontreatmentservices.com

Something’s Missing in the Current Drug Prevention Rhetoric

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I have been an addiction therapist for approximately thirteen years.  While for some professions that may not seem like a long time, for a substance abuse professional, thirteen years in the trenches is a very long time. It is thirteen years of being underpaid, overworked, and underfunded.  It is also thirteen years of working with lost and often traumatized souls who may never ever get better.  Thirteen years as a substance abuse professional can make you weary.  However, you don’t end up in this profession and last for any length of time unless it is a calling.

Unless you are completely cut off from the outside world, you have seen many a news article lately about what is being called the heroin or opiate epidemic.  The apparent meteoric rise of addiction problems due to a prescription pill problem that for many turns into a heroin problem.  In March of 2016, the Centers for Disease Control issued new guidelines for doctors who prescribe opioids for chronic pain.  In 2015, hydrocodone combination products were moved to a Schedule II drug classification, indicating their highly addictive potential.  These changes were made in the hope of curbing the opiate addiction problem in our country, but with little effect.

This blog is not meant to be a discussion of anything related to why the situation continues to decline or what to do about it now.  What I want to talk about is prevention.  Most resources, even good resources like www.PASTOP.org, spend most of their page space talking about prescribing, what to do with unused medication, overdose and treatment information.  While all of this is very useful information, it is what I would call secondary prevention.  This is prevention of use by teens or adults, frequently who are prescribed medication initially by a doctor for a legitimate medical issue.  What is missing from the big picture of this prevention discussion is childhood.

Earlier this year, I finished reading both Dr. Gabor Mate’s, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s, The Body Keeps the Score.  Both are must reads for anyone who works in the addiction field.  I would like to share with you the line from In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts that inspired me to write the post.

“The prevention of substance abuse needs to begin in the crib – and even before then, in the social recognition that nothing is more important for the future of our culture than the way children develop.” P. 443

What is missing in almost all current talk about prevention is that, unfortunately, for all the people already addicted or prone to addiction, it is potentially too late.  Why do people become addicts?  Trust me in that no one wants to be an addict when they grow up or enjoys addiction.  Maybe, in the beginning, they liked the effect of the drug, but that quickly wears off.  What many addicts like is the escape.  The ability to take a substance that makes them not feel feelings they don’t like or can’t handle.  They like the fact that when they are taking the substance, they don’t have to sit in reality.  They like that the drug makes their flashbacks go away.  They like the fact that many drugs make them forget for a period of time.

In 13 years, I have yet to meet a drug addict who, at some point in their life, and most likely in childhood, did not suffer from at least one form of abuse or neglect.  Many drug addicts and alcoholics (gamblers and sex addicts too) endured verbal, physical and/or sexual abuse by their parents or family members growing up.  Many endured neglect in childhood as well, whether that was physical or emotional.  Many addicts were bullied in school and had no one safe at home to talk to about their experiences.  These childhood experiences mean that often, they looked for ways to self soothe, ways to cope or ways to feel better even if it was for a short period of time.

The ACE studies (Adverse Childhood Experiences) have shown scientific proof of what addiction counselors have known for years.  The more ACE events in a person’s life, the more likely they are to not only have physical issues but also mental health issues.  People with higher ACE scores are 2 to 4 times more likely to use alcohol or other drugs and to do so at an earlier age.  If a person’s ACE score is 5 or higher, they are 7 to 10 times more likely to use illegal drugs, report addiction or to inject illegal drugs.

So what do we do?  Addiction prevention starts before a child is born.  The in-utero environment of a child affects their neurobiological reaction to stress as an adult.  To stop drug addiction, we need to stop child abuse.  How do we do this?  Obviously, this is a tall order.  Make parenting classes more accessible to all expecting men and women.  Teach not only about physical care of a child but their mental health care as well.  Talk about attunement to a child and how that affects his or her ability to regulate emotion later in life.  Work to create safe spaces in a home and healthy attachment.  Teach communication skills from the start.  Teach healthy coping skills to even very young children.  Teach healthy coping skills to the adults so that they can model these for their children.  Work as hard as we can to prevent physical, sexual and emotional abuse of everyone.

I realize that my goals are idealistic.  I have always said that if the world gets healthy, I would happily change professions.

We need to start addiction prevention from the beginning by having discussions about childhood abuse, neglect and trauma.  We need to work to take away the stigma of therapy and getting help for emotional problems.  We need to teach everyone how to effectively communicate and cope.

I know that this is a tall order and that many do not have the resources to learn all these skills.  We need to work to provide these resources to everyone.  As a society, we need to do more……….

 

For more information on Dr. Weeks please go to our company website www.sexualaddictiontreatmentservices.com.

Photo credit.  The Watsons, NYC, NY.

Sex Ed by Porn: Free Webinar Friday

iStock_000044887094_Full.jpgJoin me this Friday for a free one hour webinar hosted by The Center for Healthy Sex at 12:00 pm (PT) to talk about the effects of cybersex and sexting on children.

Click here to see the event details  http://centerforhealthysex.com/sex-therapy-resources/upcoming-events/

 

You can also check out my book on the topic:  The New Age of Sex Education:  How to Talk to your Teen about Cybersex and Pornography in the Digital Age.  

More Evidence That Filtering Doesn’t Work: Teach Resilience Too

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Earlier this month a study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics that looked at internet filtering and the adverse experiences of adolescents online. There are countless software options for filtering content on your smartphone, computer, tablet or even to filter all content via your home wi-fi. Filtering has become big business. It makes us all feel better. Many parents install parental controls of some kind onto their children’s devices. Many addicts use these programs to help them stay away from pornography or other acting out apps. Just because installing these apps makes us feel better doesn’t actually mean that they are working.

In order to address this question – do these apps really decrease the adverse experiences kids have online- two researchers from Oxford interviewed 1030 adolescents (aged 12 to 15) as well as their caregivers. The researchers hypothesized (like we all do) that having some sort of filtering software installed on digital devices would protect the kids from negative online experiences. In this study, only 34% of parents said they used some sort of network filtering. Nearly 50% of the adolescent participants felt competent to work around any filter that was installed on their devices.

The results of this study indicated that the presence of internet filtering software did not reduce a child’s risk of being exposed to some type of adverse online experience. This could have been bullying, sexual advances, pornography exposure, etc. The authors of the study suggest, as I have written about previously, that parents, caretakers and educators invest time in teaching adolescents resilience skills,particularly focused on internet use and exposure to negative online experiences.

What is digital resilience? It is the ability of children to cope with negative online content in a healthy and appropriate manner. This involves both their own use of the internet, and particularly social media, but also the content that they view. Some have suggested teaching digital citizenship to young people. This includes helping young people assess representations of body image online; learning how to identify fake news; learning how to control one’s own internet use and learning how to disengage. (for more information on this see the Growing Up Digital Report).

The United Kingdom has suggested 5 Rights for adolescents regarding digital use.

  1. The right to remove: This means that everyone should be aware of how to remove any information that they have posted themselves. Additionally, anyone using social media should be aware if it is possible to remove something that someone else posted of them. If it is possible, they should know how to do it.
  2. The right to know: This means that everyone who is using the internet, but particularly social media for teens, should understand what sites are doing with your information. Who has access to your data? Who do they give it to, etc?
  3. The right to safety and support: This means that adolescents should know that they can turn to someone for support if they encounter something online that they do not understand or that they find distressing. They need to have someone in their life that they can trust with this communication.
  4. The right to informed and conscious use: This means that everyone should understand that the digital world is complicated and that they can turn it off. This also means they have access to the skills to switch off for a period of time.
  5. The right to digital literacy: This means that adolescents should really understand the technology that they are using and it’s purpose.

As an example, most people just get on an app and start using it. They do not actually read the user agreement which will state if the user has any privacy at all and what rights they have to content. Those agreements also discuss what content is appropriate and how to report inappropriate content. Most teens never read these agreements so lack digital literacy and their right to know is not met.

The right to safety and support is the providence of parents. Do you talk to your children about online content. Are you a safe person for them to talk to about things they see online? Do you provide support or lecture? Also, as a parent, you can enforce digital time outs or digital vacations. This is something that no teen is going to want to engage in, but parents are still the ones to set boundaries. Is there a no tech rule at the dinner table that EVERYONE (you too parents) follows? Does the family engage in any no-tech activities?

Since the scientific evidence is mounting to indicate that filtering access to content is not very effective for protecting teens from adverse online experiences, we need to do more. If you filter, you also need to teach digital literacy and resilience.

For more information on how to talk to your child, you can purchase my book on Amazon by clicking here.

For more information on Dr. Weeks and her practice, click here.

Do you think your teen talks to you about online risk?

Daughter looking a phone and ignoring her mother

My last post detailed research presented last year by Dr. Wisniewski . Today’s post will highlight research she presented just a week or two ago, the end of February, at the CSCW conference. Dr. Wisniewski and her colleagues continue to generate wonderful research that has real time applicability to parenting in the digital age.

Very little is known from the research community about whether teens actually communicate the risk they experience online with parents. Each parent may have their own thoughts about their own child’s exposure to risk and communication of that exposure but there is no way to really know the truth.

In the research presented last week, Dr. Wisniewski had 68 teen-parent pairs fill out weekly online diaries that cataloged the risks the teen experience online, whether the teen intended the risk to occur and how they felt about the incident. The parents were also asked to log incidents of risk that child came to them to disclose the risk encounter. The researchers then looked to see how many “matched” reports existed. A matched report was a risk diary entry made both by the parent and the teen.

First, let’s talk about risk. What types of risk does a teen face online? For the sake of this research, the risks were broken down into four categories. 1) information breaches – these are situations in which a teens personal information or photo is being used or shared online without their permission. 2) Online Harassment – This is cyberbullying or negative online interactions that make the teen feel unsafe, threatened or embarrassed. 3) Sexual Solicitations – these are sexting or requests for sexual content that can come from friends, acquaintances or strangers. 4) Exposure to Explicit Content is either voluntary or accidental viewing of pornography or violent content online.

So, what did the researchers find? Well, in a nutshell, not much matching. They found that only 15% of risk reports were matched, meaning that most of the time, parents and teens were very out of synch on what they considered risk or what they reported.

Parents reported much less risk than their children did. Many teens did not share exposure to explicit content or information breaches with their parents. These tend to be viewed as low risk by teens and it is hypothesized that therefore the information is not shared with parents. While parents tended to report low risk issues, teens reported more medium level risks.

Another interesting finding from the study involves what the researchers called Risk Agency. Basically, this looked at whether anyone was “at fault.” Was a risk accidental or intentional? Teens more frequently shared that risk exposure was accidental and parents tended to assume that their children were either victims or intended to engage in risk. Parents tended to assume that things that were accidentally viewed by their children were intentional.

In my work with parents, I often stress communication. This study also looked at parent teen communication. In most cases, teens did NOT tell their parents about risk they experienced online. The bigger problem is that the parents THOUGHT that their teens were talking to them when they were not. When teens did talk to parents, it was to ask them for help or when they were shocked by content they had seen. Another main reason why teens did not tell parents about risk exposure was the fear that the parent would react negatively. They didn’t want to be punished for things that were not their fault. Teens also did not want to hear a lecture from their parents that involved reprimand. Teens tended to find the reactions of parents: grounding, taking away phones, disallowing social media, etc. to be too harsh.

What are the practical take aways from this study? First, teens only tell their parents about 28% of the risk they encounter online. Parents under estimate risk and over estimate how much their child tells them. Teens tend to think many online risk situations are “no big deal.” Teens also find parents as lecturing, reactive and judgmental about risk they do share.

The study and clinical practice suggest that parents need to work hard to improve their communication with their teen about online activity, risk and resilience. If a parent can share discussions with their child about how to manage online risk before it happens in a nonjudgmental, non-lecturing manner, they will likely increase the chances of their teen talking to them about their online experiences. If parents want to know what is going on in their teens online world, they need to specifically ask what is going on and not assume that their child will tell them.

For more information on Dr. Weeks please see our company website. You can find The New Age of Sex Education: How to talk to your teen about cybersex and pornography in the digital age on amazon.

Sexting in 8th Grade – Part II

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Last week I shared the story of my long time friend’s experience with her child early in the school year.  Her 5th grader watching her 8th grade friend sexting on the bus.  As you might imagine, the story does not end there.  After the initial conversation with her daughter (which went amazingly well because she talks to her children about the hard stuff), she is left with the question of “now what?”

The “now what” question is not about what to do with her own child, she will keep up the open communication with her.  The question arises as to what to do with the information she now possesses, that this young girl is sending pictures of herself to boys in the school.

As we continued our conversation, we worked through the options.  My friend’s first option is to do nothing and not tell anyone about the behavior.  This option did not sit well with my friend.  She felt that if this was her child who was sexting on the bus, she would want to know so she can address the behavior.

The next option was to tell an administrator at the school that a child was sexting on the bus.  This option also did not sit too well with my friend.  In telling someone at the school, the girl would possibly end up getting in a lot of trouble.  It also opened up the opportunity for a large scale “sexting scandal” like those we read about in the papers.  My friend is not one to try to make chaos and drama so a large scale investigation and possible scandal were out.

Option number three was to talk to the parents of the girl.  This sounds like a straight forward option, but in talking about this option, we realized it is not as straight forward as it seems.  First, would the parents of the girl be able to hear the news of their child’s behavior without being defensive, in denial or reactionary?  Though my friend knows the parents from the community, she does not know them well enough to gauge what type of reaction they will have to the news.

The other concern in telling the parents, is that they will, inevitably, (we hope) address the sexting behavior with their child.  It will be quite obvious to the girl where the news came from.  My friend feared for the ramifications this might have on her daughter.  Would she be labeled a “snitch?”  Would she be ostracized by this friend or by other kids at the school?  Would there be a social consequence for her daughter for telling her parents what was happening on the bus?  Though as adults, we might not think these are big concerns, they are huge concerns to a child in school, where the social environment is hugely important.  Add to this the fact that my friend’s daughter did not want her to tell the other girl’s parents out of her fear for any of the aforementioned possible consequences.

In the end, my friend decided that she is both a parent and a responsible person.  She would want someone to tell her if her child was sexting.  She also has a real fear for what may happen to the young girl who is sexting and does not want her to experience any long term consequences from her behavior.  She continues to talk to her own child about the entire experience.  Luckily, her daughter is a pretty amazing kid (like her mom) and has already decided to distance herself from the friend because the friend’s behavior makes her uncomfortable.

I share these stories for several reasons.  First, real life accounts are often more powerful than book learning.  Second, I want you all to know that even if you talk to your kids proactively about cybersex, it doesn’t end there.  There will be tricky landscapes to navigate throughout their school career.

Dr. Jennifer Weeks is the founder of Sexual Addiction Treatment Services and the author of The New Age of Sex Education: How to Talk to Your Teen about Cybersex and and Pornography in the Digital Age.

Parents are Disconnected from Generation App

Father And Son Using Laptop At Home

Father And Son Using Laptop At Home

The digital world is ever changing and parents frequently have a hard time keeping up with what their children are doing online. Many parents are trying hard to lay down rules and boundaries regarding device use and cybersafety for their children. While these boundaries are wonderful and necessary things when parenting in the digital world, a new study released by the National Cyber Security Alliance reveals that there is a very large “digital disconnect” between parents and their teens regarding teens’ online behavior, their online experiences and how they resolve online issues.

First, an update on how teens are using tech today (as of June 2016 when the study ended). Most teens are accessing digital content on their smartphones (86%). In second place are desktop computers (63%). Teens are spending a lot of time plugged in. The study found that for teens aged 13 to 17, they (62%) spend at least five hours a day plugged in.

Where are they going? Youtube is the place to be, with 91% of teens using Youtube consistently. As for social media apps, Snapchat is the current most popular app with (66%) of teens using this app and a close second is Instagram with 65% of teens using this social media app. Facebook is losing its prominence though 61% of teens surveyed are still using the social media site.

One of the most interesting findings of the survey is that parents think they are creating and enforcing rules around technology usage and cybersafety with their children. However, when their children are asked about these issues (away from mom and dad) there turns out to be a huge disconnect about the rules. For example, 67% of parents say that their child knows that they are to come to them when they experience an online incident that makes them uncomfortable or scared. However, only 32% of teens thought that this was a rule that existed in their family. Teens were much more likely to go to a peer to address the issue than they were their parents.

The study looked at 12 potential tech rules in a family. The difference between the percentage of parents who said a rule exists and their children who agreed was huge. For example, 54% of parents said that their child had to ask permission before downloading a new app or game and only 16% of their teens thought this rule existed. 50% of parents said that their child was required to share their passwords with them while only 16% of their teens reported this rule. Additionally, only 9% of parents said that their household had NO rules about tech while 28% of the teens thought that they had no rules.

These differences show that parents and their teens are not on the same page when it comes to tech use in the household. The good news is that teens still think that their parents are the most important source for online safety and security information.

These differences clearly highlight that though parents think that they may be doing a good job of communicating about tech to their children, the message is getting lost somewhere in translation. Parents need to take an approach to technology that makes it a common part of the household dialogue and conversation with their children. Though you can never make a teen talk to you, demonstrating some tech savvy yourself and talking to your child regularly about their digital world makes the topic commonplace and increases the chances that they will come to you when there is an online issue.

To access the full study, go to file:///C:/Users/Jennifer/Downloads/Keeping_Up_With_Generation_App_Findings_Summary.pdf

Find out how to talk to your teen about cybersex with Dr. Weeks’ new book: The New Age of Sex Education: How to Talk to Your Teen About Cybersex and Pornography in the Digital Age.

30 Days of Sex Talks

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30 Days of Sex Talks: Empowering your child with knowledge of sexual intimacy is a series of books for parents created by the organization, Educate and Empower Kids (www.educateempowerkids.org). I found these books while researching my book, The New Age of Sex Education, How to Talk to Your Teen about Cybersex and Pornography. The first thing I did upon reading the books was to email a client and tell her she must buy the books. We had just had a session discussing her own discomfort talking to her son about sexuality.

There are three books in this series. The first book is for ages 3 to 7. The second book is for ages 8 to 11 and the third is for children 12 and over. The books are written in a very user friendly fashion. Each has thirty topics ranging from basics in anatomy to discussions about affection and intimacy. Each talk has a suggestion for how to start a conversation with your child as well as other questions to consider. They also offer some sample dialogues. These are not just sex education books. They focus on all aspects of sexuality and are simply the best books I have seen on this topic for parents.

Ages 3 to 17

Topics for small children do tend to focus on anatomy and body integrity. I love that they bring up forced affection. Forced affection occurs when a child is pressured into some type of physical affection that makes them uncomfortable or that in which they do not wish to engage. For example, “give your Aunt Alice a hug.” Other great topics include teaching about public versus private, respect, bad touch, how to say “No” and love and affection.

Particular to my work, the books also introduce pornography and the internet. Some people may feel that this age group, 3 – 7, is too young to be introduced to the concept of pornography. I believe that we cannot start to talk about these things early enough in an age appropriate manner. When discussing pornography, the authors do so without judgment. It is factual. They also introduce the idea that no one should make them look at pictures that make them uncomfortable (i.e. grooming) and that there are some types of pictures that are not ok to take. These are great topics that can have protective value should the child ever be exposed to an adult trying to sexually groom them.

Ages 8 to 11

The topics change and grow in complexity in the next age range. The topics also build upon those from the earlier age group. Anatomy is reintroduced here, as are the topics of public versus private and relationships. This age group book introduces sexual identity, body image, self esteem and continues to instill protective practices against child sexual abuse.

The topic of masturbation is raised in the book for this age group and is done so without shame or judgment. They do bring up the possibility of addiction but do not infer that if a child masturbates, he or she will become an addict. The same possibility is addressed for pornography, again without inference that if a child sees pornography they are bad or will become an addict.

This age group book also introduces sexting and social media. This is perfectly age appropriate. Research shows us that young children are being exposed to sexting and sexual interaction in apps and webcam based sites.

Ages 12 +

This is the meatiest of the three books, as the child entering his or her teens faces an increasingly complex social world and is, presumably, entering the realm of relationships. This book really does a fabulous job of being real about the sexual issues that a teen faces. Topics include: emotional intimacy, positive aspects of sex, relationship boundaries, consent, shame and guilt, healthy relationships, hook ups and STI’s among other things.

The discussion of pornography for this age group is great. Discussions with the teen about pornography include the potential damage to relationships, objectification and the potential for erectile dysfunction. There is not an assumption that any pornography use is addictive, but that extended use can affect brain chemistry and may lead to addiction. This is what the science tells us. The same concept is applied to masturbation. There are no assumptions made about masturbation, there is a discussion of what happens if it becomes a habit.

The discussion about sexting gets more in depth. The possible legal ramifications are discussed as well as possible social consequences. They are very clear that the social ramifications can include cyberbullying and shaming.

This series of books is smart, accurate and straight forward. There are a lot of things that are not in this book. There is no denial. There is no inferred shame or judgment. There is no influence of any religious belief on the topics.

It is the combination of both what is and what is not in this book series that makes it the best book on the topic I have ever read. Every parent should own them.

For more blogs on similar topics see our site The New Age of Sex Education

Tech Updates for Aware Parents

Father And Son Using Laptop At Dining Table

Side view of father and son using laptop at dining table

In the ever changing world of mobile technology, it is hard to keep up with new apps and services. Fads come quickly and leave just as quickly. During the first half of this month, a few tech changes have occurred that a tech savvy parent might want to be aware of. This post is a short recap of new things and changes. If you are interested, please dig further into the apps and/or new functions.

Peach

At the beginning of the month, the founder of the video messaging app, Vine, launched a new app named Peach. This new app is more like a Twitter or Facebook than a traditional messaging app. Messages that are written are posted to a home page in real time. The app allows for video, gifs and traditional images. There is also a draw function in case you want to post a doodle. The app is officially only available for iOS systems.

Three days after it’s release, Peach was in the top ten for social networking apps in the iPhone app store. Whether it is the desire for something new or the media hype, it is clear that people are checking out the app. Only time will tell if it continues to be popular or quickly loses ground.  (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/peach-a-space-for-friends/id1067891186?mt=8)

Upshot

Upshot is being touted by technology bloggers as the Snapchat for events. This new app creates a cache of pictures from an event or location of an event such as a party. If the user chooses the autoshare option, any picture they take on their phone or via Snapchat will be posted on the Upshot private event stream that a user creates. The app syncs with Facebook events to make ensure a larger inclusion of photographs. Like Snapchat, the images do have a self destruct period. The stream will only be available for seven days after it has been created. The app is available for iPhones now with an Android launch in February.

The idea of Upshot sounds great. Create a private event for something like a baby shower or family reunion and everyone who is at the event (and who uses the app) can then see all of the photos of the event. I believe this is akin to the intent of the app as it is created by the same people who created the family Photosharing app called Togethera.

Upshot is given a 12+ rating for infrequent alcohol, tobacco or drug use. As with any social app, it can be used for great good. It seems like a great idea for parties and events. On the flip side, I would be concerned about the content of the Upshot albums when they are used at teen parties. We all know that some teens have used SnapChat to send sexual content. What happens if these types of images are uploaded onto Upshot from an event? Is the entire group on the private event then possibly in trouble for possessing sexual images of children? (http://www.upshotapp.co/)

Skype

You may be wondering why Skype is on this list as it just celebrated its 10th anniversary. On January 12, 2016, Skype just announced that it will be offering free group video calling that will be available on nearly all mobile devices. According to the company, nearly 750 million people around the world use Skype.

Though Skype is most frequently used in business and for legitimate reasons, there are some individuals who do use Skype to engage in sexual chat online. Be aware, that this group chat can now occur.

As always, this blog post is not meant to be an in-depth look into any of these apps or advancements. For more information, please check out the company sites to determine if you think the app is appropriate for your child to use.

Yik Yak

Yik Yak is an anonymous social network app that is popular among college students. I have written about the app previously on other blog posts. The company announced yesterday that the app is now going to also be available in a web version. The web version is fundamentally the same as the app but allows a user to type out their messages on a keyboard for ease of use or for when phone battery is dying.

When Yik Yak was originally created, the app was a problem with high school students but the founders, in a responsible move, geofenced the app around high schools and middle schools so it cannot be used in those locations.

For more posts like this, please see www.thenewageofsexeducation.com.