Editor’s note:It seems like a new social network, website or app pops up almost every day! How can you keep up with what your kids are using? Don’t worry, hlntv.com/raisingamerica has you covered. Check back each week for the latest ways your kids are connecting online. Sarah Evans is a digital correspondent for companies like Cox Communications, live-event host and consultant. She runs #1StepAhead, a digital literacy resource for parents (email only) and is the founder of FAVES + CO., a digital lifestyle publication. Sarah can be seen in Vanity Fair’sAmerica’s Tweethearts, Forbes’ 14 Power Women to Follow on Twitter and Entrepreneur’s Top 10 Hot Startups of 2010. She is on Twitter.
The average age kids begin consuming media is eight years old. And, five million users under the age of 10 have Facebook profiles. That means a lot of kids are exposed to content that might be otherwise meant for young adult or adult eyes.
One of the things your online youngster might regularly see are sexy-selfies of their friends or friends of friends. A “selfie” is a self portrait taken with your smartphone and shared online or via an app. A sexy-selfie is also a self portrait, but shows the individual in a sexually explicit, inappropriate or otherwise questionable pose or situation.
Even though girls are more likely to share a selfie, they’re shared by both boys and girls as young as 10–and, perhaps, even younger. That means beginning around the age eight, you should talk to your kids about selfies, because they will take and share them.
Whether you view them as art, communication or narcissism, selfies continue to grow in popularity among tweens and teens, and are shared via text, apps and social networks. More selfies are shared on Facebook than every other social network combined (not including SnapChat).
In case you don’t know the types of photos kids are sharing, here are some of the most popular sexy-selfies:
- The Bedtime Selfie – this includes revealing pajamas, or of a tween or teen in bed
- The Naked Torso Selfie – though they are mostly seen from tween and teen boys, it features a boy without his shirt out, sometimes in a suggestive pose
- The I-just-got-out-of-the-shower Selfie – a tween or teen will share a photo with them in a towel, sometimes standing in front of a mirror
When talking to your young child (between the ages of 8 and 14), let them know you are not saying they can’t share selfies, but only those which portray them in a way you both decide is appropriate.
Discussion points for your conversation:
- Talk about the future. Let kids know that what they share today maybe visible by colleges and employers of tomorrow.
- Create a list of the types of inappropriate photos. For example, photos in underwear or a swimming suit (depending on your comfort level). Don’t be afraid to get specific. It eliminates the future, “we never talked about that” conversation.
- Set expectations. If your child breaks your trust or violates the terms you set, then make sure they are aware of the consequences. This applies to all texts, messages sent via apps and on social networks.
- What works! Don’t only focus on the negative, but the positive. Talk about selfies your kid wants to share, like showing off a silly face or a photo of the day.
- Let them know you’re watching. It’s essential to monitor what your kids share online–especially if they’re using a social network younger than the age allowed in a network’s terms of service. Friend them on photo-sharing sites, like Instagram, so you can also see which pictures they favorite or like.
- Follow up. Talk to your kids about what they’re seeing from friends online. If they’re exposed to photos you’ve agreed on are inappropriate, consider having them remove those friends online.
- Get a parental network. Join forces with your young kid’s friends’ parents to keep selfies and other photos age-appropriate.
Did you catch your child or one of their friends sharing sexy-selfies? Let us know if you plan on having a sexy-selfie talk with your family. Tweet @PRSarahEvans with #RaisingAmerica or talk to us on Facebook.