This content is sponsored by Thorn. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
In the times we are living in, being online has become such a huge part of everyday life. It is a great way to stay connected with friends and family and to also find new community as well. Children younger and younger are online communicating through games and social media, and even more so right now when we are living through a pandemic and face to face communication isn’t always possible.
The reality of this is that children sharing nudes online is becoming more and more common than ever before. Children as young as nine say they have been asked to share nudes online, by both peers and adults. While nearly 1 in 3 children feel as though they would tell parent or caregiver if they were asked to share nude content of themselves, only about 6% of children who had the experience did so.
I’m sure you’re feeling as shocked by all of that as I was; it is hard to think about children being in those sorts of situations and it is heartbreaking to worry that if your child was in one, they might not feel comfortable telling you. Even when we have a close and open relationship with our children, the stigma, shame, and embarrassment that often comes with these situations can make it incredibly difficult on children to feel as though they can be honest about it.
This means as parents and caregivers we have to be diligent and prepared to have conversations with our children about digital safety. Starting small with digital safety will help keep kids safe online, which prevents many things- including online child sexual exploitation. We often can feel ill-equipped on how to have these conversations as well as how to respond if or when our child needs them. I know that we knew we had to have these conversations with Nate when he was younger, but I’ll be honest; we really stumbled our way through them. Now that our two little ones are growing up, we want to be even more prepared.
That is why I am so happy to share with you all about Thorn for Parents, which is an incredible resource for parents and caregivers to learn how they can have digital safety conversations with their children.
Thorn is a technology non-profit dedicated to defending children from online sexual exploitation. They recently launched Thorn for Parents to help parents have earlier, more frequent, and judgement-free conversations about digital and online safety. It provides supportive and actionable content that is optimized by age group so parents and caregivers can easily have access to content that is age appropriate for whatever stage their children are at. Being able to have a resource to start the dialogue early and having the tools that were created by Thorn can help bring peace of mind to parents and caregivers to navigate the conversations that need to happen.
My biggest takeaway from Thorn for Parents is that shame is the biggest obstacle to seeking help. Parents and caregivers can often inadvertently use language that puts the onus of things like sending nudes directly on the child, such as “Why did you send the nude in the first place?” or “It will be your fault if the nude gets leaked.” This can come from a place of fear as well from parents and caregivers, but this sort of attitude is also why many children who encounter things like this try to handle it alone or feel too embarrassed to speak up. Being able to have open and honest dialogue with your children about digital safety before harmful situations may occur can truly flip the switch on a difficult situation. Starting the conversations early, listening and speaking with empathy and understanding builds a solid foundation of trust. Sexting and nudes are a huge part of the conversation, but I also started thinking about things that I didn’t think about as much to talk about, such as providing social media platform knowledge and speaking about the balance between online and real life.
As parents and caregivers, it can be easy to feel isolated and alone when you are tackling hard subjects such as online child sexual exploitation, but a resource like Thorn for Parents can help bridge the gap so we can come together to get the information that we need to normalize being open and honest with our children. It isn’t easy, but it is so worth it to do everything we can to not only protect and guide our children to utilize the internet as safely as possible.
Please visit parents.thorn.org, and let’s start the discussion early, listen often, and avoid shame to build trust with our children.