Sheffield Parent Talks About Their Child Sexting

Sheffield Parent Talks About Their Child Sexting

Tash Bright No Comment

During our  ‘Let’s Talk About Sexting’ campaign we have looked at a wide range of topics surrounding young people sending and receiving sexual imagery. As our campaign draws to an end, the main thing that has become apparent is that there is so much to consider and it is imperative that we look at the bigger picture. Young people sexting has become a major issue in schools, for families, child exploitation services  and for young people as individuals.  Our society and the technological advances that have led to sexting becoming so common place means that we all must take greater care in understanding why young people sext, the risks of young people sexting and the laws surrounding young people sexting.

Young people’s safety is always and should always be the top priority when sexting laws are put in place or when dealing with child sexual exploitation.  This week we will be focusing on the often forgotten topic of how young people sexting can affect the whole family.  PSHE Association found that 78% of parents were either fairly concerned or very concerned about youth produced sexual imagery. We interviewed local Sheffield parent, Carol, whose fourteen year old daughter had recently been referred to the Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Services after various sexting incidents.

How did you first find out your child was sexting?

She told me. I’m really glad that she can be open with me because it makes me feel less worried that there’s stuff going on that I don’t know about.

5-2

 

How did you feel when you found out your child was sexting?

I was quite horrified. I tried to conceal it but it is very shocking. You just think you can’t relate it to your own youth. You just think, ‘what’s going on’ but apparently that’s what happens. She’s educating me! Everybody is doing it. That’s the way it sounds.

5-8

 

Does it help to talk to other parents?

Yeah it does. I talk to other parents. It is fairly widespread. You don’t want to think that your child unusually precocious. You think if they’re all doing but I still find it shocking.

5-6

 

Why do you think young people sext?

Partly because they can, because there’s the technology available. I think it’s a very sexualised world now. I think of the things that we thought were a bit rude on Top of the Pops and now it’s nothing. They can all get porn on their phones. I find that really sad because before they’re ready for sex, it’s there. Kids are inquisitive aren’t they. I think they have this very sexualised view of other kids and themselves whereas emotionally their miles away from being ready for it. She has had a couple of experiences of sex and she didn’t like it. She knew she wasn’t ready for it. She felt coerced and that put her of for a bit now. There’s a difference between the real thing and looking sexy and people fancying you. Two separate things.

5-5

 

What advice would you have for parents who are concerned their child might be sexting?

She’s always one step ahead of me. Even if I did manage to take her phone away, she’d just find another way of doing it. That’s her territory. I’ve got no way of knowing what’s on there. The thing that really really obviously bothers parents is the thought of them putting images on the web. We’ve talked about it ending up all over the place. I’ve told her what I think about it with things coming up on the news about images being circulated.

5-3

 

Have you learnt about any software that can be used to help monitor your child’s online/phone use?

I wouldn’t have a clue where to start about software to monitor her phone. I don’t have the ability. It’s gone beyond what I can do. We’re not idiots, it’s just so much has come so quickly.

5-7

 

How has working with Sheffield Futures helped you deal with the situation?

I think Sophie has gone through a big change where she’s felt herself a lot more grown up than her peers. She’s quite vulnerable and she’s quite impressed by people who are living what she sees as an exciting lifestyle. There were a couple of episodes where she was brought home by the police in the early hours as she was out with a boy she met from school, so that’s why we were referred by social services to the CSE team and I found it massively helpful. They discuss with Sophie about staying safe and different aspects of drugs, sex and alcohol in a way that Sophie would be telling to get lost. I’m really grateful that we’ve got that support… As a parent, you’re the one responsible for them and you can make errors because you just don’t know where to turn next. The natural thing is to clamp down and say you are not doing that and it just makes it worse but that’s the immediate thing you think you should do. Then you talk to the Sheffield Futures Sexual Exploitation Service team, who have knowledge and experience and you work out a way of dealing with it that is going to be a long term as rather than getting angry. When this thing is confronting you, you just panic and I think it makes a massive difference [to get support] because you could really make it a lot worse.

5-9

 

Has the sexting led to bullying?

There was a situation where she talked about it at school and that got spread around the school and she did find people talking about her and it was out of her control and that really upset her. That thing of other people knowing. Then of course the story gets changed.
5-10

 

Has sexting changed your relationship with your daughter?

I think as a parent it takes a bit of the idyllic parent thing away. You know you have the ‘my little girl’. You just have to grow up about it really and think it’s a thing. It’s there. I think parenting is one long compromise anyway. You have to let go of your own illusions and dreams because it’s the child being safe and happy that matters. That’s all you want.

 

If you have been affected by any aspect of sexting you can get help from the organisations bellow:

Childline – 0800 11 11 or in an online chat athttp://www.childline.org.uk/Talk/Chat/Pages/OnlineChat.aspx

If parents and carers are concerned about their child, they can contact the NSPCC – 0808 800 5000, by emailing help@nspcc.org.uk, or by texting 88858.

They can also ring the Online Safety Helpline by ringing 0808 800 5002.

 

 

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