Groping in the Dark

Ruthie Patriquin
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How to talk to your teen about 'sexting'

Q. What should I tell my teen about sexting?

A. Sexting is sending sexual pictures, videos or messages through cell phones and social networking sites (i.e Facebook).

There’s no doubt there are lots of benefits to cell phone and the Internet. There’s also no doubt that parents need to talk with their teens about being smart, safe, and responsible when using these technologies.

The Nova Scotia Association for Sexual Health (NSASH) recently received funding from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia to create workshops for youth and for adults/parents to help address this issue.

Here are some suggestions from NSASHs’s cyber-bullying project.

Tell youth that:

They could be humiliated:

Texts and pictures can be saved and used against you. (It might have seemed like a great idea to send the semi-nude photo to the person you were madly in love with last month, but what if you break up and your ex decides to use the photo against you?)

Twenty to 42 per cent of teens have been a victim of cyber-bullying or harassment.

Things can go viral:

The most common form of cyber-bullying is sharing private information without permission. What if that is the nude photo of you and now it’s been put on Facebook?

They could get in trouble:

Did you know that sending out naked pictures of anyone under 18 is illegal?

And, nothing is ever truly deleted or destroyed from your computer. The RCMP has the technology to retrieve photos and messages off of cellphones and computers even after they’ve been deleted. If you are involved in a case of cyber-bullying, they can legally seize your electronic devices and pull the information off.

The images you send out may surface in years to come:

Prospective employers/universities/colleges may go on the Internet to see what they can find out about applicants. In a serious relationship? This person may do the same - they want to know all about you, right!

Make your conversations with your teens short and to the point if you want them to pay attention.

And it’s probably not a good idea to refer to it as “sexting” unless you want the “eye-roll.”

In a recent survey of Halifax teens, NSASH was told that “sexting” is an adult word - teens wouldn’t use it!

Teachers and youth group leaders who are interested in talking with youth about these and other aspects of cyber-bullying (which also includes being harassed in other ways), may contact the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County (SHCCC) for a copy of the workshop referred to above. We also have a copy of the “Respect Yourself” activity book suitable for 11-14-year-olds from and Internet Safety Tips pamphlets for parents and children.

The Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County is one of seven members of the NS Association for Sexual Health. All will be celebrating Sexual and Reproductive Health Day during the days leading up to Feb. 12 (National SRH Day) by encouraging people to talk about sexual health issues with the families, friends, and co-workers.

No matter what our age, we will want to think about the consequences of sexting, and other issues relating to sexual health that new technologies raise.

You can contact the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County at 667-7500, email:, or visit the office at 11 Elmwood Dr., Amherst (Monday-Thursday by chance or by appointment). Questions for this column may be sent to the email address or mailed to P.O. Box 661, Amherst, NS B4H 4B8.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Association, Sexual Health Centre, RCMP NS Association for Sexual Health

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Elmwood

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