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Around this time of year, I find that many parents are completely unaware of what’s going on in their kids’ lives. Many kids will be trying to push the limits sexually with their boyfriend or girlfriend; they’ll be sneaking off, planning a special “rendezvous” and telling some bold-faced lies to their parents. On one hand, kids and teens can be pretty sneaky, and sometimes, they are able to pull a fast one on us, but on the other hand, so many of the parents that I work with seem to turn a blind eye to their kid’s behavior—unable to comprehend that their little son or daughter could be getting into trouble. So, here is a quick roundup of some of the struggles that kids deal with all year, but especially on Valentine’s Day:
- “Proving” their love and devotion sexually: Parents, even your “innocent” little boy or girl could be involved in some pretty serious sexual behavior. It’s naïve to believe that they aren’t feeling the cultural pressure to perform sexually and to prove their sexual worth. I work with so many kids who feel as though they have to keep up with their peers and the highly-sexualized world they see online and TV. Even good, “Christian” kids are feeling this pressure, and it’s up to you as their parents to be in regular conversations with your kids and do your part to provide a healthy, parent-supervised environment for your son or daughter to spend time with their “special someone”. Even young kids—I’ve known ten and eleven-year-olds—are getting involved in oral sex and sexting very quickly—their parents just think they are too young to be experimenting in that way, but please understand that even though they are young, they are still doing it.
- Pornography & Masturbation: There are two main reasons that the kids I’ve worked with struggle with pornography around Valentine’s Day: (1) they are lonely, and (2) they want sexual instruction so they know how to please their boyfriend or girlfriend. Parents, I hope you will understand that even young girls and boys are feeling this pressure. It’s up to you to talk to your kids about healthy sexuality and the harms of pornography and masturbation. Additionally, it is critically important to install parental controls and a strong filter on ALL Internet-enabled devices that are in your home and that your children use. Prevention is the key to helping your son or daughter avoid a sex addiction and unhealthy behavior down the road.
- Sexting: Kids desperate for love and attention now have many avenues to receive interest and flirtation. I recently learned of a girl who was deemed undesired by her classmates. She was routinely bullied by the boys and girls in her class, but last year, on Valentine’s Day, she received a text from one of the popular boys in her class. He told her that he secretly had a crush on her all year, but that he had been embarrassed to tell his friends. He now was telling her how sorry he was that he had treated her poorly. They texted all night, and things escalated very quickly. He told her that he really wanted her to send him a sexy picture. By the end of the night, he had a fully nude picture of the girl, which he then proceeded to send around the whole school. He preyed upon this girl’s vulnerability to make her the laughing stock of her school –she eventually switched schools. Parents must use parental controls on all Internet-enabled devices—accountability and monitoring software can even flag questionable chats/texts/IMs and notify you immediately if something is going wrong. I also encourage parents to “snoop”, that is, taking charge of their son or daughter’s phones and seeing what’s on them. One dad I spoke with recently discovered that his son’s phone was filled with explicit sexual pictures from girls. Also, talk with your kids and help them to understand that when they send an image or a text to someone, it’s highly unlikely that that image or text will remain with the intended recipient.
- Online Hookups: Many of the teenagers that I work with have been to online dating sites—sites where they interact with other teens and sometimes adults and have online hookups. This can be especially dangerous when a teenager agrees to meet up with someone that they only met online—it can be very easy for someone to create an alternate identity for themselves online. Help your children understand the dangers of these sites, and also help them to understand that sex is sex—whether it’s online or in-person, if your son or daughter is getting caught up in cyber-sex, they are opening the door to a life of risk sexual behavior and doing harm to their purity. I would also strongly encourage you to use parental controls to block your child from having access to sites like this, and keep the computer in a public area of the home and out of bedrooms.