Covid 19 has brought about many changes within our homes. For those of us that work with teens, especially in the social media space...the writing was on the wall early on. The incidents of teens sending nude pictures and videos to one another has risen since lockdown. Astronomically. Boys asking girls for naked pictures. Asking for video. Sending video. Kids have been locked down...and are looking for connection now more than ever. Bored kids that miss one another...that are already attention seeking by nature and uncomfortable in their own skin...coupled with endless amounts of time with access to unrestricted devices...it is a perfect storm. As parents we have been distracted by covid, working from home, finances and health issues. Completely understandable. We are trying to survive. And it has been damn hard. On everyone. But kids are making HUGE ....HUGE mistakes. From their own homes. I can not tell you how many teens I have spoken with that said they “did not feel a naked video of someone being silly” is pornography. They just thought it was funny. So they share it. Many teens I have spoken with mention that if it's "funny" then it is ok. And there is not a connection between the harm that can come later from sharing. There is actually a massive disconnect. And here is why.
A ten second search on tik tok, snapchat, or instagram from a teens perspective is enlightening. Sexuality is pervasive. A "look at me" culture is a consistent theme. Each swipe up of Tik Tok and one could be misled to think they are perusing an adult dating app. While social media and devices have given us a wonderful way to connect, and to stay connected through the Corona Virus pandemic...the connections our kids are making are not always positive. What do teens fear? Being irrelevant. To NOT be noticed. To be unpopular. Social media provides a platform in which they can gain a sense of popularity and notoriety. What provides the most attention through these platforms? Showcasing your body. Your sexuality. Platforms that allow space for this, that encourage the proliferation of sexuality through high numbers of likes and comments, with teens that are looking for a way to stay relevant...tag on lots of downtime with unrestricted devices due to lockdown...and we have a perfect storm that will follow many teens for the rest of their lives. There is a desensitization that occurs. As teens are allowed to remain in these spaces unrestricted, they come to see the sexualization of their bodies...who they are...as normal practice. This practice then turns to what they see as a useful tool in their life to maintain the connections and relevancy that they are craving. In essence their bodies become bargaining chips. They bargain with pictures or videos of themselves for likes. For followers. They bargain to get a boyfriend or a girlfriend. They bargain to get a boyfriend or girlfriend back.
Parents do not know that this is going on in their own homes, in the room next to theirs. During the day, late at night. It is happening. Everyday. In homes in every community. The consequences are vast. Sending inappropriate pictures most always ends with shame at some point. If not now, then later in life when teens are grown and have families of their own. And the picture resurfaces. Or they find themselves facing legal consequences for child pornography distribution if they are under the age of 18.
We have the ability to change this trajectory. As parents it is imperative that we dig in. That we are checking our teens device. That we are having open conversations. That we are discussing their worth. We must help them to understand that their power does not lie behind a key board hitting send, and then waiting to see if others think they are still relevant. Their power lies in saying no. Their power lies in knowing their worth is not tied up in pictures, likes and comments. And as parents we can help them to step into this power. It is our job to guide them. To teach them that their bodies are not bargaining chips.