15 Tips for Parents on Sex, Alcohol and Social Media
(NEW YORK) — Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, a pair of high school football players, were found delinquent Sunday in the sexual assault of an intoxicated 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio.
Both were sentenced to at least one year in juvenile jail and could be held until they are 21. Mays was sentenced to an additional year for a charge related to distributing nude images of a minor.
The case is a cautionary tale that highlights the dangerous mix of alcohol, sex and social media that many teens navigate nowadays.
Here are tips for parents helping them to do so from Denice A. Evans, a mother, public speaker and the director of the award-winning documentary Spitting Game: The College Hook Up Culture.
1. Get Trained
Get trained in computer literacy so you can understand how all the different kinds of social media actually work. Your teenager knows more than you and will know how to maneuver their social media in a way that you will not have access to.
2. Set Social Media Rules
Set hard-and-fast rules about the use of the Internet in your home, whether it’s on a PC, tablet (iPad) or smartphone. Don’t allow your teens to have these items if they can’t or won’t follow your rules. While they are living in your home, they must adhere to your rules. There are no other options.
3. Use Social Media Parental Controls
Make sure there are parental controls on everything. Discuss the reasons they are required to have parental controls on all their media. Don’t assume they know what is appropriate and what is not. Define it for them in ways that they understand. Make sure to ask them whether they understand or whether they have any questions.
Have a one-on-one discussion with your teen about the harm and dangers of some kinds of social media. Be completely available and open to discuss uncomfortable subjects with your teen. Bring up the Steubenville case as an example and opening into a conversation about it.
Do it in a non-confrontational setting, like while driving in a car together or sitting on the couch next to each other without looking directly at each other. This will put your teen at ease about not having to make direct eye contact. Or take him or her on a fun outing, start the discussion in the car and then finish over lunch or while you’re out walking.
5. Persist Through Discomfort, Including Your Own
Know that talking about subjects like cybersexual harassment, provocative photos and sexual assault are going to be uncomfortable for everyone. These are not easy topics to discuss, but you must persist through your own anxiety to make sure your teen really understands the gravity and repercussions involved.
6. Do Your Homework
Amber Madison’s Talking Sex With Your Kids: Keeping Them Safe and You Sane — By Knowing What They’re Really Thinking is an excellent resource on how teens think about sex written by a columnist for Seventeen magazine. In addition, educate yourself on sexual assault and what the laws on rape are in your state. Have a clear understanding of what constitutes consent and what doesn’t.
Ask your teen what they know or have heard about sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape. Let them tell you what their understanding of it is and do not judge or analyze their answers. Just listen.
Then educate your teen. By the time they are teenagers they have heard the word rape before, probably often enough to have it be a common word. Let them know the legal definition of it — it can mean things “less” than sexual intercourse, such as finger penetration — and how serious a crime it is. Talk to them about the serious consequences involved and why it is a violent crime.
9. Teach Sexual Assault Bystander Principles
Teach them bystander principles. Empower your teen to come up with their own thoughts and feelings about sexual assault by discussing a possible scenario and asking them what they think would be the right thing to do in that situation. Guide them with examples of how a bystander might be able to help someone in distress.
10. Set Boundaries
Set healthy boundaries by letting your son or daughter know how much you care about them and how much you care about other people. Talk to them about the values that are important to you and important to the family. Let them know that you do expect them to follow the values you have set forth with integrity and compassion for others.
11. No Drinking in Your Home
Do not be complicit in underage drinking by allowing anyone younger than 21 to drink alcohol in your home. Make this a hard-and-fast rule and don’t ever break it.
12. Be Proactive on Underage Drinking
Have your teen look up all the risks involved with underage drinking. There are a ton of websites devoted to the harm in drinking alcohol. Let them look up the meaning of BAC, Blood Alcohol Level, and DUI, Driving Under the Influence, and what the penalties by law are. Have them print out the information, then sit down with them and go over it together.
13. This Is Your Brain on Alcohol
Discuss what alcohol does to the brain and the body in detail. Many teens do not know the details of how alcohol affects their decision making abilities and motor skills.
14. Be the Model When It Comes to Drinking
Teach and role-model behaviors that you want your teen to acquire. Require them to be in social situations where they must converse with your friends or even business associates. Let them absorb the right ways to socialize without the use of alcohol.
15.Explain Alcohol and Sex
Explain the misuse of alcohol in combination with how having sex with a drunken person can constitute a crime. Give definitions of all the words used in talking about rape cases even if you think they understand them, like incapacitated, perpetrator, rape, unconscious, alcohol poisoning, intoxication, etc.
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