submitted by a professional faculty mom of a 16 year old son:
My son got a cell phone for his 13th birthday. In reality, it was more for my convenience and peace of mind than his. He was starting to get himself around town on the bus, go places without us on occasion and it was a lesson in responsibility. We had LONG conversations about appropriate use, being responsible about the use of his minutes, keeping it turned off and stashed in his locker when at school, etc. It also enabled him to be in close touch with grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends…..a rite of passage. Texting was added to his plan at age 15. Again, it served my purposes as much as his. He could text me when he got home from school and if I was in a meeting, I could text back “do your homework” and check that off my ‘things to be concerned about’ list. He would sometimes text me to come get him before an event was over and he was ready to come home. He has been great about utilizing both the phone and texting options as we had intended.
At various points along the way we had many conversations about how what you put on email, the internet and text messages can exist forever, and sometimes in really uncomfortable way. We talked about how what you say electronically represents yourself, your family, your school and your friends. We talked about the Monica Lewinsky emails and we used the analogy of putting whatever you said on a billboard alongside I-5 because that’s how many people would see it. To be honest, I was kind of patting myself on the back about how things were going and how responsible he was.
I get up first in our household and one morning I did my son the favor of plugging in his phone because the battery was nearly dead. When I did, I saw that he had 8 unread texts from “Megan”. I don’t know Megan. I gave in to my curiosity. What I read curled my very straight hair. I am no puritan, but what I read made me want to run upstairs and snatch him out of bed by his hair. Visions of that I-5 billboard danced in my head. Instead, I went out for a long walk and calmed down and decided to sit with his new found activity for a while. Sexting? MY kid? REALLY!!?? Teenage girls can be kind of predatory, but it takes two to tango, right? I was faced with the dilemma of deciding what to do and not wanting to alienate him or send him underground. Oh….and the icing on the cake? The girl’s mother went to school with my husband. They have been friends for a very, very long time.
In the end, I carried the situation around for several days. When I could speak without screeching I told him I wanted to talk to him about his texting with Megan. His face was a mixture of relief and embarrassment and fear. Real fear. His words came pouring out….”Oh my gosh, Mom, I barely know her, I don’t know what to do so I just keep responding, if I don’t respond she just texts me again.” I reminded him that the things he had said were pretty raunchy. He apologized, squirmed with embarrassment and asked me what to do. My response? “Text her and tell her your mother read your texts and this stops now. Right now. Tell her to take your number out of your phone. Take her number out of yours. For God’s sake, hope that her mother hasn’t read it. And tell her that if it happens again your mother will kick your ass and tell her mom.”
All of this happened six months ago. I admit, I occasionally check his texts. I even asked him about Megan recently. He squirmed a little and said she never spoke to him again. We talk about freely, as we always have. He has a girlfriend. She thinks sexting is stupid. Finally, someone with some credibility!!