Last week I received an email from the BBC – yes, THE British Broadcasting Corporation, asking if little old me would like to contribute to an article they were putting together.
The subject was teenagers and the dangers of ‘Sexting’ (the sending of explicit texts, images and videos). Like me, you probably squirm at the thought of your tween or teenager ever contemplating such a thing but it’s a very real problem in our children’s world right now.  
If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you will know that I was deeply concerned by an article in the Daily Mail (and subsequent Channel 4 documentary by Martin Daubney) with shocking evidence to suggest that by the age of 13, our children are regularly exposed to explicit, sexual material, being passed amongst their peers.  
When asked to write an ‘open letter to my daughter warning her of the dangers of ‘Sexting’, I didn’t find it difficult. Although my daughter is only 13, I know many girls and boys of her age, for whom this is very prevalent.  

Dearest Daughter,

If I was sitting opposite you right now, you would probably be rolling your eyes in despair…or perhaps embarrassment, but this way, I hope that you will give my words a chance.

I know that you see yourself as a grown-up teenager, able to make decisions for yourself but trust me; sometimes your “uncool” mum only has your best interests at heart.  Please hear me out….

As I watch you blossom from a child into a young lady, my biggest prayer is that you retain your innocence for as long as possible.  This doesn’t mean that I want to ‘baby’ you; it just means that I am trying my hardest to keep your life age-appropriate.  On occasion you will think my decision and advice is unfair, even ridiculous, but as your parent, my greatest role in life is to be the gate-keeper to your heart.

Every day I see girls of your age – just 13 and still children – posting suggestive images of themselves, on Facebook and Instagram;  photographs which once in the public domain, cannot be erased.  I am shocked and saddened by these girls’ eagerness to flaunt their adolescent bodies, pouting in front of the camera lens, taunting young boys and even grown men.  With the arrival of Snap Chat  – a site which promises to leave no trace of your image online – the temptation is likely to be greater.  My instinct to protect your innocence however, emerges even stronger.

Please stop and think before you post.  Who is going to be seeing this image?  Who might they send it on to?  What impression of yourself are you leaving with that person?  Please consider if it is the right one, the one that you want them to remember you by.

Can I ask one more thing?  That you respect yourself – not only the teenage-self that you are now, but the adult that you will one day become.  Images are difficult to forget and your reputation will follow you forever.

Keep that sensible head on and I promise you won’t ever regret it.  

Your ever-loving

Mum x
I wasn’t the only parent blogger asked to write a letter, take a look at the article featured on yesterday’s BBC online news magazine, to read the others.  
I would  be very interested to hear your views on ‘Sexting’ – is it a term you’ve come across? Are you shocked to think that your children might one day be tempted by or unwittingly exposed to this?  
It could be sooner than you think; please talk to your tweens and teenagers about the dangers involved. 

31 Comments on ‘Sexting’

  1. Nicola Thomas
    November 22, 2013 at 7:38 am (3 years ago)

    I am so appalled by it along with many other things that teens seem to do. Being a teacher, you hear about year things happening in school and it is so shocking especially when you know the kids involved. I hope that my children never get involved in this as it is just awful and I agree that they really should have more self respect.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      November 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm (3 years ago)

      I guess that being a teacher and a mum you get a bit of a ‘heads up’ and worst cast scenario. I’m not sure that helps but at least you’re prepared. It’s shocking what goes on, isn’t it? I want to try and instill self-respect but know how important it is to feel included for a teen growing up.

  2. Amanda Masters
    November 22, 2013 at 7:40 am (3 years ago)

    I can’t even get my head round why children would want to do this! Your open letter to your daughter is great, to the point without coming across as nagging, the reminder of having respect for herself is one we probably all need once in a while to regulate our behviour.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      November 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm (3 years ago)

      Absolutely! And I’m sure we can all think of things we have done and wouldn’t do again with a sensible head on.

  3. Elaine Livingstone
    November 22, 2013 at 7:50 am (3 years ago)

    I am not saying I approve ( because I dont) but sometimes teenagers have very low self esteem and this makes them feel good about themselves, a bit like getting pissed on a friday night, seems a good idea at the time but the next morning you suffer.
    I think it is a hard world to be bringing modern kids up in, with all this going on around them. Even things as “innocent” as a pop video with seductive wiggling has my granddaughter copyng their moves, she is just 11.
    I agree anything people put on the net is there to haunt us forever, picture or words, you cannot press undo when it is out in the big wide world. I know thta no matter what you are never going to stop children doing things you as a parent dont approve of, thats their job role to “annoy the ‘rents”.
    I know a lot of parents at work who complain their children are on the internet till 11.12.1 in the morning doing goodness knows what without monitoring.
    Im sure every one of our children will consider it before they are 14 as it seems harmless fun…..sadly as you say it is not.
    I love your letter filled with love and concern for your child, sometimes I think it is a matter of being there to pick up the pieces.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      November 22, 2013 at 6:18 pm (3 years ago)

      Oh yes, how we’ve all done and said some stupid things that we regret afterwards. The probably is, you cannot take back these images and that’s why it is so important in this day and age, to drum self-respect into our teenagers. I can’t understand why parents allow children access to the internet until midnight – it’s our house, we can tell them no! Thanks for commenting and for sharing your wise words Elaine.

  4. Orlena
    November 22, 2013 at 8:13 am (3 years ago)

    Beautiful letter. My children are young now but I find it scary that kids want to grow up so quickly. I remember when I was a kid people used to say ‘your childhood are the best days of your life’ and I never understood what they meant. It’s hard to get children to cherish their childhoods.

    • Suzanne Whitton
      November 22, 2013 at 6:20 pm (3 years ago)

      I know, and here we are saying it ourselves now. Lost count of the number of times I’ve told my kids that school days are the best of their life! They aren’t believing me but it’s true.

  5. Kathryn McCrone
    November 22, 2013 at 8:36 am (3 years ago)

    I went on a Sage Guarding seminar for work yesterday and the police were talking about sexting. One of the things about the children should know if that it is a criminal offence. And showing the photo to another person is also a criminal offence. Not that the police are going to prosecute sadly. Also, it isn’t a case of IF your children see indecent images (porn or sexting), it is WHEN. I see a lot of unusual sexual behaviour that teenagers are telling me about in my clinic, which comes from porn.
    There is a great You Tube clip called “Porn Sex v Real Sex”. Take a look. The police said that the best thing parents can do is to be savvy with the internet, IT and what is going on. And talk about it. Twitter and Facebook are the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of sites that we parents don’t even know about.

  6. Charly Dove
    November 22, 2013 at 8:38 am (3 years ago)

    What a wonderful letter Suzanne and sound advice. It’s hugely worrying to hear that 13 year olds are flaunting themselves online especially when they’re not old enough to understand the consequences. Sound advice :)

  7. cogitoergomum
    November 22, 2013 at 9:35 am (3 years ago)

    I am not sure I would even know where to begin such a letter. I have three boys. When I was at school (mixed comprehensive) sex was discussed a lot. I thought everyone was at it. Looking back, I now realise 2 people were at it and talked about it a lot! All we really had available to look through were Judy Blume books. I think adolescents have always been intrigued about sex. It is just that now the technology available is bombarding us with messages that are so distorting. And it is just so easy for kids to share what they think everyone wants to see. I see I am rambling now. I have no further point to make other than your letter to your daughter far exceeds anything that I think I could manage.
    Thank you for sharing.

  8. Erica Price
    November 22, 2013 at 9:37 am (3 years ago)

    I’m dreading all this and the loss of innocence seems to come ever earlier. I think it’s more difficult to avoid this sort of thing with technological advances being made all the time. I’m not sure how you deal with ti.

  9. Sarah Wheeler
    November 22, 2013 at 10:47 am (3 years ago)

    Great letter. Agree with Kathryn and other posts, perhaps best thing we can do is to be tech savvy and be there to pick up the pieces.

    Dropping in from #PoCoLo

  10. Tas D
    November 22, 2013 at 10:53 am (3 years ago)

    Being a teenager is so much harder now than it was when I was a teen and I can’t even think about how hard it must be to parent one with the amount of gadgets and access to the Internet and ability to be so explicit at such a young age. I think the harsh reality is that it will happen younger than we ever want it to. I hope you and your daughter always maintain a close bond and she is open with you at a times.

  11. The Reading Residence
    November 22, 2013 at 10:54 am (3 years ago)

    I am shocked and saddened by this. My kids are both very young, so I’ve not yet thought this far ahead. With modern advancements and tech, comes modern dangers and worries. Thanks for sharing, and that’s a great letter. #PoCoLo

  12. Mummy Glitzer
    November 22, 2013 at 10:55 am (3 years ago)

    What a lovely letter.

    My son is only 3.5 so it isn’t something I have to talk about, yet. The scary thing is that when he is a tween or teen and I need to educate him about having respect for girls and indeed people, the advances in technology will be such that I can’t even comprehend what I will need to talk to him about.

    As an aside, my husband and I don’t even have sexy pictures of each other, even when we were just dating, or ourselves on our own phones, not through fear of the other sharing but more in case we lost them!

  13. Mummy Zen
    November 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm (3 years ago)

    I read the BBC article yesterday and saw your letter had been featured! I think you put it very well, that’s all parents want to do – keep their children’s lives age-appropriate. Yet we face such a battle with doing so it seems and sexting is just one other thing we have to worry about unfortunately.

  14. Emma Oliver
    November 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm (3 years ago)

    Suzanne, contemplating that one day I will face this with my two little girls fills me with dread, that the innocence will be lost. I know though, it will happen, and it is people like you, and content like this, that helps parents to arm themselves against it. Thank you so much for sharing. #PoCoLo

  15. Sara Murray
    November 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm (3 years ago)

    The teenage years, in some ways, fill me with dread. I remember how hard it was myself, and how much you crave attention/being liked/being cool. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is going to be for my kids in this tech obsessed world. I think we have to be aware, be supportive, be understanding and reinforce skills of empathy and respect over and over. Thankfully, I am pretty tech aware myself, and that is probably a good start – but the technology isn’t the root issue, self respect and care and forethought are – difficult things to teach teenagers. Great post. #PoCoLo

  16. Misty B
    November 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm (3 years ago)

    Scarlett is only 3, but I’m already dreading the teenage years, the thought terrifies me. It was bad enough for me only 6 years ago, never mind in another 10.
    Your letter is wonderful and comes across in a way that is understanding rather than condescending which I think a lot of parents can be guilty of.
    My mum and I had a very open and trusting relationship which I only hope I can achieve with Scarlett.
    It’s sad that these things happen and sadder that there’s nothing we can do to stop it. All we can do is ensure that our children are properly advised and kept safe x

  17. Laura Ludlow
    November 22, 2013 at 8:53 pm (3 years ago)

    I used to own a beauty salon and the amount of girls (between 13-16) that wanted ‘extreme’ waxing was really sad. Things are so twisted. The internet is amazing, but it has a lot to answer for. Images are thrust in front of young people and they have such a twisted idea of what is right and normal….

  18. Izzie Anderton
    November 23, 2013 at 10:14 am (3 years ago)

    I think it’s essential to keep communicating with our children over this issue – no matter how much they think we’re embarrassing them! I consider myself very lucky with my daughters – they both had lots of extra-curricular interests that kept them busy (ballet, rowing & Japanese) and never found the time! It’s all about self-respect and not doing what everyone else is doing – here’s to keeping our kids safe!

  19. Hurrah For Gin
    November 23, 2013 at 1:54 pm (3 years ago)

    Its a great letter suzanne. I would have struggled to get the right balance, you get your point across really well without sounding at all patronising! x

  20. Michelle Twin Mum
    November 23, 2013 at 11:18 pm (3 years ago)

    I haven’t quite got to this stage yet with my kids but I’ll definitely be having the awkward conversation,i is too important not to. Already my 6 year old will tell me if her new top is too low and I love this modesty and respect for herself she is developing, while still being individual and funky. Mich x

  21. Victoria Welton
    November 24, 2013 at 10:01 am (3 years ago)

    What a great letter Suzanne – written so sensitively :) And well done for getting asked to write for the BBC, that is so cool! I shall definitely address this with Grace, although there was a great programme about this subject on CBBC the other night which they approached really sensitively and Grace watched with interest. Thanks for linking to PoCoLo x

  22. Mama Owl
    November 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm (3 years ago)

    Scary isn’t it, things that never would even have crossed my mind at such an age being done by such young children. I have a great relationship with my teens & we talk very openly about such things because I don’t want them to feel awkward or like they have to be embarrassed, but it makes me sad for the kids who don’t have that support from their parents. x

  23. Mummy Plum
    November 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm (3 years ago)

    I love your letter. And even if your daughter doesn’t ‘get it’ now. One day, when she’s a parent, and she looks back and reads it, she will. Being mindful of the digital footprint that they leave on the internet is so important for kids today – not only for their own self-respect and self-esteem but also I think because in today’s world and with such a wide variety of social media, ‘six degrees of separation’ has never been more true. One rash mistake can stick around for a very long time. I thankfully don’t have to confront this with my children yet, but I hope we will be able to have the honest dialogue you have with your children and enough common sense to not get themselves into trouble!

  24. Judith Kingston
    November 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm (3 years ago)

    I liked the bit where you ask her to think ahead to the woman she will become and to respect her too. I often wish I’d thought further ahead with my decision making as a teenager. Even just a day or so ahead would have made a big difference!! :)

  25. dragonsflypoppy
    November 27, 2013 at 7:59 pm (3 years ago)

    Such an important issue to raise awareness of. I remember my friends at work sharing what their teenage daughters had got up to online and being totally shocked. Now I have a daughter of my own I feel even more aghast. Your words are very wise and well put. xx


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