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Tales from the Motherhood: ‘Sexting’ situation prompts social-media discussion

Published: Friday, May 9, 2014 3:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 9, 2014 3:38 p.m. CDT

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According to a press release issued by the Batavia Police Department on Monday, disciplinary action may be taken by Batavia Public School District 101, but no criminal charges will be brought against any of the Batavia middle-schoolers found to be involved in the recent “sexting” issue.

This is good news.

I’m delighted to learn that police and BPS staff, along with Kane County judges and staff from the Illinois Judges Association, plan to collaborate on efforts to educate students and parents in the proper and improper uses of social media – and their consequences.

Parents learned from a Rotolo Middle School announcement on Thursday that an educational presentation “Seven Reasons to Leave the Party” will be given to all Batavia eighth-graders May 15, during school hours, and will be repeated that evening, beginning at 6:30 p.m., in the RMS cafeteria. Difficult teen choices, illegal substances, and the appropriate use of technology will be discussed. Parents are invited to attend any of these presentations.

While certainly a scheduling challenge, I sure hope this program will also be made available to sixth- and seventh-graders and their folks, too. As we’ve seen from recent events, eighth grade is too late to begin the conversation. The police release also urges that discussions with kids about these concerns should happen “regularly.”

Yes, indeed. Early, and often, and then a few more times for good measure. You know, just like discussions about relationships and whose turn it is to walk the dog. They each elicit the same reaction in my house. People scatter! Don’t let that apparent disinterest dissuade you from talking with your children, though. They may never give you the satisfaction of acknowledging that they hear you or even appreciate your words, but a few of them will sink in – and will make a difference.

Last week, I mentioned the huge impact on children’s developing self-esteem that adults and parents can have, when they teach and model their own self-acceptance. I believe this has a direct correlation on kids listening more to their own guts, instead of to other pressures from peers and media. Whatever else these parent/police/school-initiated discussions entail, I am hopeful that first and foremost, kids will hear loud and clear that the adults “get it,” that it’s absolutely normal for adolescents to become sexually curious as they mature. (Many adults will recall sneaking peeks at their Dads’ old Playboy Magazines, for example. Remember?)

This kind of curiosity is not weird, it’s normal. But combine that with nifty new technology, and adolescents’ even bigger – and also normal – drive to “belong” and be accepted by their peers (which, it should be noted, often overrides the ability to fully comprehend and heed concerns about consequences, which is why regular education and parental supervision is needed), and it’s no surprise the “sexting” thing happens.

Remember what it felt like to be young and naturally hungry for the reassurance borne of having our peers let us “in?” (Heck, that’s true for some adults, too, but mature brains and strong spirits truly can make a huge difference.)

Friend and veteran mom Janice Carmany (whose kids are now adults) recently shared a recollection from her own youth, with me. She permitted me to reprint her comments here, as I think they speak so well to what we parents and others must bear in mind as we embark on efforts to support and educate our kids:

“…I remember being in eighth grade and participating in the writing of a ‘dirty’ novel with a group of friends. It was all raunchy fantasy based on absolutely NO experience. We got caught, scolded and embarrassed ... sigh ... and we all got over it. The shared notebook has now become the shared texting – more personal, more far-reaching, more disturbing. The motives, I believe, are the same, but now adolescents are exploring sexuality in a very confusing time of life (puberty) in a society with very distorted views of popularity and sexuality. ‘Who am I? How do I measure up?’”

I think she’s right. Who among us hasn’t wondered the very same thing?
• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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