Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

Archive for May, 2015

Is Your 12-Year-Old Texting Naked Pictures?

At a recent assembly of 5th grade students (age 11) I asked how many of them have devices like phones, tablets or iPods that they can put apps on. ¾ of the students raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them talk to other people through those apps. Half raised their hands. In a room of 250 11-year-olds, 125 of them talk to other people online. Does this surprise you? Here’s another fact… did you know that the average age-range of youth who send inappropriate content over the internet (“sexting”) is 10-15, with the most common age being 12! Let me say that again another way. The most common age of student sending sexual content over text, video or wifi app is 12.Cell Phones Schools

These teens and preteens communicate with their friends about everyday stuff. But sometimes that branches out into flirty or attraction conversations. Social media is so commonly used by this generation that they do not think about the infinite extent of their reach. They send a picture to a friend, that person may send it to five others and eventually it goes to hundreds of strangers. The internet also creates an opportunity for youth to “meet” people all over the world. And especially for a kid who feels disconnected or hurt by their local peers, talking to strangers around the world is tempting, easy, and gives an artificial sense of anonymity and safety. But they are often unaware of what they could actually get in trouble for. Here are some obvious and not so obvious things kids under 18 can get in big trouble for in many states.

  • Sending a picture or video of themselves naked, partially naked, or in suggestive poses.
  • Receiving a picture or video from someone else even if they didn’t ask for it.
  • Asking someone for a sexual picture, even if the person doesn’t send one.
  • Having a sexual conversation via message or text, even without video or pictures
  • Spreading rumors about someone else’s sexual behavior via message or text
  • Sending or receiving a sexually explicit picture or video of someone else

This is not an exhaustive list but my point is that while many students might think they are flirting, or joking, or that they have deleted videos or messages, this information is stored and recorded and often sent on when they don’t even realize it.

What kind of trouble could they get in? Well, in many cases, when a person under 18 takes a picture of their own naked body, it can be considered production of child pornography. If they text or message or email or video or find some other way to send that inappropriate picture to someone else, that can be considered distribution of child pornography. If a student has a sexual picture on his phone or computer or device but it is of someone he doesn’t know, the student can get in trouble for possessing pornography.  If a student is contacted by an adult and engages in conversation and exchanges sexual content, the adult will get in trouble, but the student might too.kid-arrested

Many of these are considered felony charges, often at the federal level. Students can go to jail or be placed on probation. Some will be required to register with a sex offender list.  In addition, even if the indiscretions are not picked up by law enforcement agencies but are addressed in the school system, students can lose their scholarships and be banned from playing school sports because of character guidelines. It has also become common practice for employers and colleges to research a potential candidate’s online presence and not offer them acceptance if they have a questionable history.

It is imperative that parents be aware of what their child’s online behavior is. Know what apps are out there and who your child is talking to. Here is a (short) list of common apps that people use to share this kind of information:

  • Kik
  • Omegle
  • Instagram
  • Vine
  • Grinder
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Texting
  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype
  • Twitter

These applications are not evil in nature. Plenty of people use them appropriately every day, myself included. They just need to be used with discretion. Please share the above information with your child and discuss the risks involved. If they want to talk to strangers online, find out why and discuss ways to stay safe. Most importantly students should be made aware of the potential consequences of online behavior they may assume is no big deal because “everyone is doing it.” Remember, this is not just high school students.

The most common age of kids sending naked and sexual content is 12. Twelve. Sixth Grade.

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Disappointment with a Capital D

This is a topic I started counseling when working with kids in anger management. We’d discuss how anger is a secondary emotion. It’s real, but it’s second, happens after the primary or underlying emotion. If you are angry, I teach, that is a cue to ask yourself what else are you feeling inside also.Because to manage the anger we must address the emotion that is fueling the anger. That emotion might be sadness or worry, powerlessness or fear. But most often, the number one cause of anger is Disappointment with a capital D. What I have discovered, after years of talking to clients, is that adults should be aware that Disappointment triggers them too. disappointment-sign

Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day. A birthday. Times we get our hopes up for something to happen, but the result doesn’t meet our expectations. That’s hard. It’s a bummer. It kinda sucks. When a kiddo has a fit because they don’t get their way, we tell them to knock it off. Grow up. Deal with it. And yet, adults really aren’t much better at handling disappointment. Our fits might be more controlled (or not…I’ve seen some serious adult temper tantrums…!) but we have them just as often as kids do. Why is this?

Unrealistic expectations is a big reason. Being hurt and disappointed that a family member doesn’t offer more support. And yet, truth be told, that person has never been good at offering support. I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying it is what it is. If that person has been a jerk for 20 years, why would they change this year? And yet, there we go, hoping this time will be different. And there we go, upset again. We get our hopes up and we get disappointed yet again.

In researching images for this blog post I found many pictures saying “if you expect nothing, you’ll never be disappointed.” I don’t think that’s what I’m suggesting here. I think its okay to hope. But if there is a pattern, realize there is a pattern. Don’t be in denial or ignore the facts and then be surprised that it turned out the same way it always has. If you don’t like how it turned out last time, do something different. Change your expectations, or put your faith and hope in someone who is more likely to accommodate your need. Try to get some clarity so you can have more realistic expectations.

That’s not always easy. It requires insight and observation. Asking yourself, what am I hoping for and can that happen? What are the chances? Accepting that you’re not going to get the results from the current situation can be difficult too. It can mean accepting a truth you don’t want to face, like this person really won’t ever stop drinking or you won’t ever get promoted in this job, or your parent will never be the accepting nurturing parent you think you deserve. Accepting those facts might pressure you to change and change is scary. I tell people all the time that they don’t have to change. But they do have to accept where they are if they want to stop being disappointed. acceptance

I asked a young nine-year-old client to give me an example of a time she felt disappointed. She said, “when my brother got invited to the Cardinals game and I didn’t. I was mad because I really wanted to go. THAT was disappointing.” She was right on the money. She got it. Hopefully we adults can also be so wise and recognize the emotion for what it is and get better at handling that gigantic capital D.

Living With a Rock Star and a Super Hero

I have always known life isn’t easy. From my own tough experiences but more importantly, from hearing every day the difficult things people experience when they share them with me in counseling, I have heard some doozies. And yet, through it all, I am repeatedly awed by the strength of the human spirit to persevere. I tell people all the time that they can handle so much more than they realize. They don’t think they can, but then when it happens, they do, they survive, they make it through.

I don’t think we worried we wouldn’t survive parenting a child with Down Syndrome. We knew we would be okay. But there was so much we didn’t know, it was scary. Parenting itself is already an adventure into the Great Unknown. It’s the most rewarding and the most powerless feeling anyone could have. Add to that parenting a child with special needs and many of us could easily shut down. Health concerns, learning disability, physical disability, mental illness… Down Syndrome, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder… it feels like there are more questions than answers sometimes.full cover

Our experiences with Sensory Processing Disorder and then Down Syndrome turned out to make us stronger. And while we assumed that we’d have to work harder to guide our children who had “special needs”, what actually happened is that they teach us. They do better than we ever thought they would, and teach us new things every day. They exceed our expectations and those of the world around them. When I wrote my book (Living With a Rock Star and a Super Hero) my premise was that Ben thinks he is a rock star and he thinks Lucas is a super hero. But the real truth is that to me, Ben IS and rock star and I am his biggest fan, and Lucas is all of our hero, he saves us every day with his wisdom and his energy. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing. I am better because of it. Most days I try to remind others of their potential, and I can do this because I see it in action every day of my life.

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