My 13 yr old daughter sent an inappropriate picture to a male friend at school who continuously asked her for a topless photo. I regularly check her phone for messages/pictures, the phone is taken every night @9pm, I check the computers, no computers in bedrooms, etc. I am very involved in school and their lives. Have done everything I thought I should do. I became aware of the incident, went straight to the Principal, an investigation ensued, police involved, etc. Many children lost their cell phones, including my daughter. However, I was so concerned about her well being, what was she enduring during the school day. I was in contact with the counselor who would check in on her during classes and lunches to ensure she was socially connected and still communicating with friends. We talked every day, etc. I tried to be there for her. I thought it all blew over by the end of the school year. She got her cell phone back after a few months. I just now discovered she sent another picture to another boy. Her phone is gone again and the camera and picture mail are disabled. But she won't tell me what's going on inside of her head. Why she did this again. I thought the first incident would have scared the whole 8th grade, especially having the police involved. How do I get through to her, how do I get her to talk to me? Help!
I want to thank you for posting your question, as I am certain that there are a large number of parents with similar questions who can learn from your post.
First, I want to commend you for your active and thoughtful involvement in your daughter's experience with technology. As you have observed children and teens are still learning the etiquette and consequences of their actions with technology, and unfortunately, they don't have the experience or awareness to always make the right decisions. Therefore, it is important to teach and talk with children about the appropriate uses of technology, enabling them to use it responsibly and independently later.
You asked some excellent, but tough questions about your daughter's motivation and thinking. I haven't met and spoken with your daughter, but my guess is that she, like many early adolescents, is craving attention and acceptance from her peers. This desire for acceptance sometimes outweighs better judgment and leads adolescents to make bad choices in the name of "fitting in." Appearance is growing in importance for early adolescents, and they want to be perceived as attractive to their peers. They begin to spend large amounts of time primping in front of the mirror, fret over their outfit each day, and girls begin to express a desire to wear makeup. Thus, I imagine a request from a boy for a picture of her was pretty darn tempting for your daughter. "Ah, he must like me and think I'm pretty if he wants a picture of me!"
I think that it is very interesting that your daughter sent another picture following the events of the last school year, and knowing that you regularly check her phone. I suspect that she is a little overwhelmed by her desires to fit in, growing interest in boys, stresses of the peer group, and she may have been *unconsciously* sending you a signal that she is having a difficult time. If you asked her, she wouldn't admit it, but I suspect there is a part of her that knows what she was doing was wrong. She is struggling with the feelings, and she probably thinks you won't "understand" or will be angry with her desires.
I would continue to check in with her (during down moments - in the car, before bed) and keep the pressure to talk low. I think that you will probably get a lot more traction if you let your daughter know that you do "get it", you know what it is like to have a crush on a boy, struggle with peer pressure. In my experience, children and teens LOVE hearing about their parents experiences as kids, and like to be reminded that their parents are human and have been through similar situations. You can say something like, "I have been thinking a lot about the whole cell phone thing, and it reminds me of when I was in school. [whatever the story is...] I had a big crush on this boy, blah, and I really wanted his attention... I know it is hard when you really like someone...."
Finally, if you daughter is not comfortable sharing with you, I recommend that you consider counseling for her. Get recommendations for counselors in your community from your friends and pediatrician or consider a community clinic in the are. Many counselors offer a sliding fee scale, so you pay only what you can afford.
L. Compian, Ph.D.
This is a growing problem and I thank you for bringing it up, since many parents might feel that they are alone in dealing with this issue. Dr. Compian's advice is wonderful - I just wanted to mention that there are many dangers inherent in sexting behavior that your child may not be aware of, that can result in legal and emotional problems for years to come. I talk about these issues in an article I wrote called "Is Your Child Sexting? What Parents Need to Know." I've included the link below - I hope it helps you and your child!