To my teenager,
I just finished reading about another victim of our social media era. You don’t know her, but you probably know other girls like her. Jessica was a teenager in Ohio who texted a photo of herself naked to her boyfriend. This photo was forwarded to other students in other high schools in her city. Jessica was so humiliated and so devastated by the violation that she committed suicide. She felt she couldn’t go on living with that photo of her naked body posted on the web for all to see for the rest of her life.
As your parent, I want to first apologize that I didn’t know how common place this had become. I had no idea that you and other teens your age have to deal with these kinds of violations. I am devastated for Jessica and her family. But I will not allow her pain to go in vain. As your parent, I pledge to do something to help protect you from these kinds of temptations and attacks.
I have just learned that sharing nude pictures actually has become so common place that 6 out of 10 teens have been asked for sexual images or videos. I know that this can’t be prevented, but as your parent, I accept the challenge of a previous father named Joshua. He decided to help his children reach the full potential God created them for by protecting them from predators. He declared that as a family they would work to serve the Lord, not boyfriends, girlfriends or peers.
I know I won’t always do the right things or say things in the best way, but I do want to be sure you know this one thing. You are precious and valuable to me. I love you more than you will ever understand. You are worth so much to me that I vow to take stands that you might not like today, but when you are an adult you will thank me. I couldn’t possibly have said it as much as I want to, but I love you.
One of the things I want to protect you from are the people that would hurt you. People that would encourage you to do things now that will devastate you later. Sharing photos or videos like this are beneath your incredible value to God, devastating to your future and by the way, pornography.
I love you and don’t want you to get caught in a weak moment. I would never forgive myself if I didn’t do everything necessary to help you avoid this permanent internet scar. The first question I want to ask you is whether this has already been a problem? If it has, together we can work to stop it from happening again.
I am not sending you this letter just to help you avoid sharing photos now or even come close to sending a sexual type photo. I know you would never want your husband or wife, years from now, to find or be shown a naked middle school or high school photo of you that was put on the internet. Imagine if you found a photo of me, your parent, taken back when I was your age.
This letter is for more than you, however. It is to help you be a leader for your friends. At a weak moment, one of your friends might consider sending a nude photo to a friend. Please know that if they talk about it and you can’t stop them, come and get me. I will drive you to their house and wait outside praying while you talk them out of it. Yes, this is just that important to their future. It can follow and label them for the rest of their life.
If you have a friend, boy or girl, who receives a naked text, please be a leader and tell them to either tell their parents or immediately delete it. Several teenagers have already been charged with possessing or distributing child pornography. Without realizing it, they committed a felony and have been placed on sex-offender registries… for life.
I love you and want you to know that this issue is very serious. It’s not only a violation to yourself and your future, but most importantly it is a violation to God. You are awesomely made by Him and He loves you. He didn’t create you to be looked at by who knows who. It is for this reason that I want to keep a very close watch on the way we handle our cell phones, computers and tablets. It’s not about the phone or the pictures, it is about how precious you are to me and to God.
I love you. Please don’t ever forget that!
Your Mom and Dad
Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts. For more articles by Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-bob-barnes-and-torrey-roberts/