Protecting Their Permanent Record

By Michael

Two teenagers, aged 12 and 13, are in trouble in Indiana for sexting each other. The boy is 12, the girl 13, and the incredibly evenhanded, calm and wise authorities have raised the possibility of felony charges.

(For the record, my solution for child molesters involves sterilization and cremation, not necessarily in that order. However, I believe there is a distinction to be made between a 35-year-old dating a tween and two minors being stupid.)

Part of the idea of coming down hard on the Indiana teens is the deterrent effect. If other students see how serious the penalties are, they will stop sexting each other. Immediately.

But it won’t happen. The teen years are a period of raging hormones, rejection of parental authority and pursuit of position in a peer-based social order. We went through it and so do our children. Our job is to protect them when we’re the wisest people in the world and continue doing so when they don’t seem to hear a word we say.

We know our children. They don’t really have a sense of their own mortality, the dangers of the world or the meaning of long-term. Those insights take time and maturity, which we can’t give them soon enough to keep them from certain childish errors.

Whether it’s sexting or e-mail or MySpace walls, it’s too easy to send out the irretrievable. What creative ways can we find to rein in this proclivity before it becomes a habit?

Here’s a thought I haven’t tried, but it seems to have potential. After having a talk about internet and behavior and the way you can’t take it back after you’ve sent it out, show your child a picture or drawing or something on a small piece of paper. Maybe it’s a picture they find mildly embarrassing for one reason or another.

Make 500 copies of that piece of paper. Hide copies in their socks, insert into a roll of toilet paper in their bathroom, tape it to the back of the door, hide it in a favorite book, put it into a cereal bowl or cereal box….basically hide them everywhere.

After they’ve found the first 100 or so, have that talk again about internet/e-mail/text immortality. Let them know they’ll still be finding more of these reminders, because you don’t remember where all of them are and couldn’t find them if you tried. Perhaps this experience would deliver a permanent insight and caution that no lecture could offer.

What ideas have you considered to prepare your children for their teenage years? What are you doing now to make those lessons relevant when the howls of their new herd drown out your voice?


Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

8 Responses to Protecting Their Permanent Record
  1. Stephanie
    February 2, 2010 | 9:57 am

    Oh, my kids aren’t at that age yet, but it’s fast approaching. Excellent post. I hope we get some good suggestions here.


  2. kim/hormone-colored days
    February 2, 2010 | 10:11 am

    There is a Jewish concept of LaShon Hara (though I’m sure we don’t have the market cornered on this), that reminds people to think before they speak and that words, once spoken (let alone posted online) cannot be taken back. I’ve heard youth groups address this problem through activities involving a pillow fight with feather pillows in which the pillows break open and students are told to restore the pillows to how they were before. I’ve also heard about an activity with toothpaste in which the group is then told to put all the paste back the tube. Also impossible. Whether with toothpaste or feathers, the group then discusses the item as a metaphor for words and thoughts. (see

    I like the paper idea, too.

  3. Marie
    February 2, 2010 | 10:24 am

    Great post….good idea…hope some people hop in with btdt advice

  4. Kelly
    February 2, 2010 | 1:07 pm

    I have no ideas to add, but your suggestion is positively, absolutely, unqualified brilliance, Michael.

  5. Blessed
    February 2, 2010 | 4:37 pm

    I like this idea… am saving it for later!

  6. domestic extraordinaire
    February 2, 2010 | 5:06 pm

    As a parent of a teenager and a tween, I really think that this ‘hands on’ approach would really work and open their eyes.

    Now to find that piece of paper to copy…

  7. Bill Corbett
    February 14, 2010 | 1:58 pm

    The solution in my opinion, is tweens (and even young teens) should not have cell phones. They also should not be left unattended on the Internet. Their time should be limited and monitored. That is the solution.

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