What would you do if your teen had their Facebook profile open on your computer? Would you look through it? Read their private messages? Look at their friends’ accounts? I confess that’s what I did.

My son was thirteen at the time, our eldest and therefore the first on social media. When he left his account open on my laptop, I wrestled with the decision for about two seconds before I clicked on his profile. My motivation was the recent change in behavior; perhaps I could find a reason behind his sullen moods, I thought as I moved to his messages.

I clicked on the first message and there on the screen was a large pair of boobs peering perkily back at me. Boobs belonging to a thirteen-year-old! Once I got over the shock of how developed a girl of that age could be, I read through the message trail to find out how they had appeared on my child’s account. His message went a little something like this:

Boy:     Can you sell me your old IPhone?

Son:     Nah, mum’ll kill me she wants to give it to my sister.

Boy:     C’mon ur mum won’t even notice.

Son:     Can’t sorry

Boy:     $100

Son:     Not enough

Boy:     $100 plus nudes?

Son:     Nudes!!! No way 😉

Boy:     Yes way 🙂

Son:     Prove it send me one… 

My first thought, as I shut the screen, was for the safety of the girl involved. I feared that the shame of her photo being circulated could lead to the most horrible of scenarios. This was my motivation to call my son’s school and report him to the headmaster. My concern was that upon further investigation I found out that he had sent the photo on to a female friend.

A punishment ensued, but surprisingly the families of the boy and the girl involved seemed oblivious to the hullabaloo. A few years later and I have heard of all sorts of incidents like this and I am pleased with the way that I dealt with it at the time.

The BBC writes that child protection officers are investigating an average of one case involving “sexting” every day, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has said. It said sending nude or explicit images of themselves on social media had become “normal” among teenagers. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-33126718

It was a hard lesson and my son had to suffer some social humiliation (the boy who sent him the shot was the ‘cool kid’). Three years later I have a boy (on the precipice of manhood) who is sensitive and respectful of women and aware of the implications of abusing social media.

Of course the other lesson that I learnt on that day is that when snooping be prepared that you may find more than you bargained for.

Tell me your thoughts about looking at your teens private messages?

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