A lot of parents are caught off guard when their child starts experimenting sexually in their early teens. It’s difficult for a parent to accept that their child that was playing with dolls and monster trucks up until a few years ago has suddenly entered this very grown-up phase of experimenting with their sexuality. An American parenting app called Jiminy found that by the age of 13 around 40% of children have either received or sent a sexually explicit text message.
There are different types of sexting that teens might take part in. It could simply be an exchange of explicit messages with someone, or it could also include a graphic picture or video. There has been an increase in sexting over the recent years, partly due to the pandemic pushing people towards using online methods of communication more than before.
As a parent it is important to inform yourself on why your child might be engaging in this behaviour and to be aware of the dangers that could arise if your child is interacting with strangers in this way. With this being said, there is no need to panic, and it is important to accept that your child is reaching the age where it is completely normal and healthy to start experimenting sexually.
So, what should you do?
Even though you or your child may be hesitant to talk about these things, it is important to create an environment and relationship with your child where it’s okay to talk about sex. In traditional Maltese households’ sex has been a taboo topic and one that is not spoken about. This can lead to your child feeling the need to hide this part of their lives and will limit your ability as a parent to keep them safe. It is important to start preparing yourself mentally for this phase in your child’s life from early on. If not, the fact that your child is engaging in sexual behaviour will hit you out of nowhere and can make you react in an angry or shaming way towards your child. When discussing this topic with your child, remain open and calm, and make sure that you let them know that it is okay to talk about this.
Sexting can be harmless fun at times. However, there are predators out there that may try to take advantage of your child. Young teens are often impulsive and may be quite naïve so taking the time to discuss safe sex and safe internet use with your child is very important. As mentioned above, make sure that you approach the conversation in an open and non-judgemental way so that your child will be more receptive to what you are telling them. Teach them about how to be safe during sex, both physical sex and online sex. Sex education is lacking in the Maltese schooling system so having these conversations with your child may be one of the only ways they can learn about this topic from a trustworthy source. Teach your children to be very careful if they are going to engage in sexual behaviour with strangers that they meet online and provide them with the tools they need to be safe.
Lisa Laspina is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist who is currently working with Willingness. She is reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.
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- Genovese, D. (2019, December 18). Sexting study shows kids starting before they even turn 13. Fox Business. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle/sexting-children-study