Q: I found some very inappropriate texts and pictures on my teenage son’s cell phone the other day. I know when I confront him he will be devastated that I know. How can I approach this so that he understands it’s wrong to do this without scarring him for life?
A: Confronting your son about inappropriate behaviour won’t scar him for life, but allowing that behaviour to continue unchecked just might.
The first thing he needs to know is that sexting is potentially illegal. He could face arrest and prosecution for sharing or receiving explicit pictures over the phone. If the subjects are minors, the pictures fall into the category of child pornography, the distribution and possession of which is strictly illegal.
Will your son be embarrassed when you confront him about this? Probably. So when you do confront him, make sure he knows that you’re doing so out of a deep love for him and a concern for his emotional and spiritual well-being.
This will require you to walk a very fine line. If you make light of the situation and dismiss the seriousness of the mistake your son has made, you increase the likelihood that he’ll repeat the behaviour. On the other hand, if you take an excessively hard-line approach, you run the risk of driving your teen into even deeper despair.
Even as you endeavour to address the situation with love and compassion, then, there can be no question of minimizing the anguish your son is experiencing. The key to successfully managing this situation is to help him take ownership of that anguish, assume responsibility for the actions and choices that produced it, and turn it into a springboard to better, wiser behaviour in the future. If you need help with this crucial process, don’t hesitate to contact our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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