On the first night of my sexting group the kids’ parents are present. One evening, a parent was scrolling on their phone, not paying attention. They were completely unaware their body language was communicating to their child, “What I am doing on my phone is more important than this class.” Shockingly, I had to ask the parent to put their phone away.
Smartphones are only 11 years old. Early research is starting to indicate the negative impacts of them and social media, including increased levels of anxiety, depression and loneliness.* Although there are positives to being so connected in the age of the Internet, the negative impacts are starting to become more apparent. Kids and adults today are a walking science experiment when it comes to technology.
Typically, when my clients are caught sexting, their devices are taken away by law enforcement for evidence and are not returned until they have completed the classes. Initially, they are upset. Time and time again, they report that once the initial shock wears off they feel better for not having to be so connected. Their parents also report their child’s interactions and temperament improve.
Kids need limits and boundaries set for them because they will not set them for themselves. Parent needs to set limits and boundaries for themselves and model positive behaviors. As an experiment, have a family-wide technology holiday once a week or a couple of times a month. Schedule a 24-hour technology free period.
Keep in mind, this will be difficult at first. It is shocking how much you mindlessly check your device. You will have to fight the urge, this will be anxiety provoking, and you will have thoughts that you are missing out. Trust me, it will get better, you will survive, and you will realize you didn’t miss much.
Make a list of activities you can do as a family. Go for a hike, go shopping and cook a meal together, volunteer somewhere, play a game, or read a book. Connect with people you have not connected with for a long time. Look for free things to do in your community and make memories.
The purpose of this exercise is to take back control and model self-restraint to your children. I promise you after 24 hours you won’t be unfriended, the emails will still be there to read, and the social media world will not collapse due to your lack of comments. You might even feel better.
If you broke into a cold sweat at the thought giving up your phone, I am here to tell you, “You have a problem.” You need this more than you know. Instead of the devices controlling you, take back control. It’s guaranteed no one’s last dying wish includes, “I should have been on technology more.”
Let us know how it goes, what you did instead, and how you felt. Good luck!
For information about sexting, how to talk to your child about it, and what to do when it happens, check out Sexting Solutions in our subscriber section.
Cheryl Kosmerl, MSW, LCSW
I'm a clinical social worker and child advocate. After more than 20 years of working with children and adolescents in a variety of settings I created Sexting Solutions, a successful program designed to teach kids to respect themselves and others, show empathy and stop abuse. Intended as an alternative to legal consequences for kids who were caught sexting, it focuses on building skills that develop a solid foundation for healthier adolescent years and beyond. Connect with me on LinkedIn by clicking the icon directly below.