Sexting, a name given for the creating and sharing of sexually explicit pictures or messages through mobile phones, the internet and other electronic devices, has become an increasingly recognised and concerning pastime of children.
It is estimated that in 2012, over 20% of teenagers engaged in sexting, with a higher prevalence reported among girls. In a survey carried out by a popular girls magazine in 2010, around 40% of girls reported that they had been asked to send sexually explicit photos of themselves, with the majority of girls complying, citing fears about disappointing or aggravating their male peers as reasons for engaging in sexting.
Along with the negative emotional consequences that often accompany sexting experiences, such as feelings of embarrassment, regret and anxiety, are also an increased vulnerability to being exposed to cyberbullying and more serious legal ramifications.
Current legislation states that the taking, sending, receiving or possessing of naked or semi-naked images of someone under the age of 18 years can lead to a child pornography charge and placement on the Sex Offenders Register. Australian law does not distinguish between sexting and more serious sexual crimes such as paedophilia and there are no minimum age requirements, such that a young person under 18 years can be charged and placed on the Register.
Sexting between consenting persons always carries the risk of being made more public and attracting cyberbullying attacks. For example, images may be passed through social networking sites without consent and attract derogatory, abusive and vicious attack. Cyberbullying can have a significant impact on young people, with the potential for reputations to be destroyed and for young people to experience social isolation and depression as a consequence.
Why do young people engage in sexting?
A common question among clinicians, teachers and parents is why do young people engage in sexting when the consequences for doing so seem so negative?
Some answers commonly given by our young clients are that they do not view semi naked and naked images as wrong or shameful, typically viewing these images as more of an expression of fun and flirtation. Developmentally, expressing oneself sexually in the teenage years is considered to be common and normal. With recent statistics showing us that around 78% of Australian students between Years 10 to 12 engage in some form of sexual activity, sexting appears to be one way our young people are expressing their sexuality.
Additionally, young people are seeing images of their role models engaging in sexting themselves (eg. sports celebrities), such that there is a culture of acceptance and a visible lack of understanding around the real consequences so often involved in sexting experiences.
This raises an interesting question as to what safe and secure ways can young people be expressing their sexuality without attaching shame, negativity and embarrassment to the experience?
Some positive ways parents can address sexting are:
Discuss the issue of consent with your young person: Saying “no” in the face of peer pressure is a difficult territory for young people to navigate. Help your child identify times in which they may be exposed to peer pressure (eg. parties) and what they can do to resist the peer pressure, such as seek out a helpful friend, make an excuse to exit the party, say “no” assertively.
Educate yourself: young people are typically very savvy with technology and it is up to parents to be vigilant and learn about new technologies and stay up to date with the latest trends. When young people have the privilege of having a phone or device from a young age, conditions must also be implemented to protect the young person’s safety, such as parental monitoring of the phone.
Educate young people: Discuss with your child the social, emotional and legal risks associated with sexting and the possible future consequences. Make a plan with your child rather than lecturing them, get them to come up with what is appropriate and discuss openly any times they have engaged in sexting and the reasons for doing so, such as being peer pressured. Overcome your embarrassment about talking to your kids about sex and how they can protect themselves and keep your emotions calm.
Help your young person to stop and assess: develop clear boundaries around what your young person can and can’t do on a device and help them develop a clear understanding of what they should do if taking a selfie and/or receiving a sexually inappropriate message. For example, wait and think before sending, assess whether the image could be inappropriate in any way, show a parent before sending or upon receiving an image that could be inappropriate.
Engage school support: Schools have a variety of supports that can be helpful when addressing sexting among young people. For example, schools often have access to a Police Liaison Officer, who can be engaged to discuss sexting and cyberbullying with the students and be involved in individual cases if need be. As cyberbullying frequently involves peers, schools can aid parents in addressing the problem if it arises.
Address things when they arise: be alert for any signs that your young person is engaging in or receiving sexually explicit images. Often parents hope that the issue will resolve itself, however, picking up early warning signs that your young person is engaging in sexting can lead to to far better outcomes. You may be prompted to open up communication with your child about sexting if they are being more secretive and defensive around their device, agitated after using their device, selective around what pictures they show you, withdrawing from friends and seeming depressed for example.
Balancing young people’s right to privacy and their right to safety is one of the many challenges parents face. Providing focused guidance and support around how young people can use their devices in a safe and responsible manner needs to be an ongoing conversation in our families.
Fisher, S., Sauter, A., Slobodniuk, L. & Young, C. (2012). Sexting in Australia: The Legal and Social Ramifications. Parliament of Victoria Law Reform Committee Sexting Inquiry.
Svantesson, D. (2010). ‘Sexting’ and The Law. How Australia Regulates Electronic Communication of Non-Professional Sexual Content, Bond Law Review, 22 (2), 1-17.
Crofts, T. & Lee, M. (2012). ‘Sexting’, Children and Child Pornography. Sydney Law Review, 35 (85), 85-106.
Children are more likely to behave the way we would like them to when we create an environment that reduces opportunities for challenging behaviour. This means an environment that is rich in age appropriate, stimulating experiences but also one that minimises “triggers” for challenging behaviours like tantrums, aggression and defiance. The most important part of a child’s environment are the relationships that inhabit it. Relationships that are built on warmth and mutual respect will teach children prosocial behaviour and encourage them to live up to our expectations. Prevention is better than cure so with a few measures in place; an environment can be created in which behavioural challenges are less likely to arise, and we can be better prepared to respond when they do. So how do we create this environment?
Rules that are clear, reasonable and meaningful, help children to understand what is expected of them and provide you with simple reminders that you can give to children before situations get out of hand. Afterall, how can we expect them to behave in a certain way if we haven’t told them what that is? Only a few rules are needed and ideally, children will be involved in creating these as part of a team effort. You may even like to write up a family contract to sign and display somewhere in the house, (make sure the grown-ups sign too)! Keep the language positive and make it a project that everyone wants to be a part of.
Children are more likely to follow a rule if they feel an agreement has been met rather than that they have had something imposed upon them. Also, decide and make clear what the consequences will be for breaking the rules and always remember to follow through. Logical consequences like removing a toddler from the sand pit when they are throwing sand at their sibling work best for younger children and time-out can be helpful from about three years if used appropriately (e.g. one minute per year of the child’s age and minimal interaction so that the situation can defuse). Withdrawal of privileges such as loss of Gadgets time is only effective once the child is old enough to link their behaviour to a consequence that occurs later in time (about six years and up).
To be meaningful for children, consequences need to be immediate. It is most important that when enacting rules and boundaries parents are predictable and consistent. Studies have shown that children can sense when one parent has a different parenting style to another and this can lead to an increase in behavioural and emotional concerns.
Teach and support communication
Behaviour is communication. Usually, children behave in a certain way to tell us something and achieve a certain goal. They haven’t learnt the communication skills to tell us what is bothering them or what they need, and so they show us through their behaviour. As long as the message is getting across and their needs are being met the behaviour will continue. Look for what the message is behind the behaviour and help children to build their emotional language “I can see you are very angry!” Give them an alternative, more appropriate, ways to communicate as you support them in navigating the purpose behind their behaviour. This may be through the use of visual prompts or teaching and practising specific skills such as asking for help with a difficult task that would normally lead to frustrated outbursts. This goes both ways; it is important not to assume that communicating verbally is enough to tell a child what they need to know. Timers, visual schedules and stop signs are great tools for this. Quirky Kid has developed a tool called Tickets, to assist parents to do just this. It is popular and worth a try.
Provide Emotional outlets & Play!
Give children a chance to let it all ‘hang out!’ Children get stressed, anxious and frustrated just as we do so plenty of opportunities to express this in a safe and appropriate way will decrease the chance of these emotions bubbling over. Put on some music, paint, draw, dance and sing. Stomp around like angry monsters or just go for a run outside. Play is also an important way for children to learn emotional regulation, problem-solving and social skills. Take the opportunity to play with your child and hand over the controls. Giving them a chance to lead you in their choice of games is an excellent way to give children the sense of control that they often seek.
Catch them getting it right
Children seek out both positive and negative attention and can draw their parents in by doing the wrong thing. Be mindful of this and avoid giving attention to this kind of behaviour, consider giving yourself a time out if you need to. Save your attention for the behaviours you would like to see more of.
We almost certainly will tell a child when they are doing the wrong thing, but what about when they get it right? Plenty of specific, meaningful praise will remind children of the kind of behaviour you like to see and will encourage them to continue in the same way. Tell them exactly what would like to see more of, e.g.
“I really love the way you took your plate to the dishwasher before I had to ask, thank you!”
“That was such a kind thing to say to your sister, you have been playing together really nicely today.”
Reward schemes can also be helpful when you are trying to target a specific behaviour. Agree with your child on a reward that is meaningful to them and remember to reward but never bribe! As with consequences for challenging behaviour, rewards should be immediate. Also, they should not be taken away once they have been earned. Again, Quirky Kid has developed a tool called Tickets, to assist parents to do just this.
Know yourself and your triggers
Tired? Stressed? Had a bad day? Be mindful of how this can affect the way you respond to your child’s behaviour. Think about what your buttons are and how you can respond with a level head when they are pushed. If you feel yourself being drawn into an argument, take a step back and try not to react in an emotional way as this usually adds fuel to the fire. Having some pre-planned strategies of how you will respond when certain behaviours occur will help you to feel calm and in control.
Finally, remember to look after yourself! Talk about that enormous tantrum and how it made you feel with someone you trust. Laugh about it, cry about it and take the time to refill your cup by doing the things you love. Think of the team of adults you have around you; consistency across parents and other caregivers will help support you in supporting your child.
Australian Psychological Society. Parent Guide to Helping Children manage Conflict, Aggression and Bullying www.psychology.org.au/tip_sheets
Berkien et al. (2012) Children’s perception of dissimilarity in parenting styles are associated with internalizing and externalizing behaviour.
Brotman et al. (2011) Promoting Effective Parenting Practices and Preventing Child Behavior Problems in School Among Ethnically Diverse Families From Underserved, Urban Communities.
Sutherland & Conroy (2012). Best in Class – A classroom based model for ameliorating problems behaviours in early childhood settings.
We all have relationships – with our partners, children, parents, friends, colleagues and many others. According to a new book being launched in Sydney, the quality of these relationships is critically important for our overall wellbeing. As you may recall, Kimberley has co-authored a book chapter discussing Positive Parent-Child Relationships. The paperback edition ofPositive Relationships: Evidence Based Practice across the World (Springer 2012) will be launched in Sydney on Friday May 3rd at Gleebooks: 6 for 6.30pm. Professor Ann Brewer, deputy vice-chancellor at Sydney University – who is one of the authors – will be officiating.
Gleeb books have agreed to discount the price to $50 – a significant reduction from the original. Quirky Kid Shoppe will also stock the title and will be made available soon.
More information and reviews on http://amzn.to/Y8Ew58 (scroll to the bottom of the page).Several people involved with Wellbeing Australia have contributed to this volume which has 17 chapters on different aspects of relationships.
Adjunct Associate Professor Sue Roffey, from the University of Western Sydney and Director of Wellbeing Australia, is the editor of Positive Relationships: Evidence Based Practice across the World.
The book brings together the views of a range of international experts, to explore the ways that we can “promote the positive” in various aspects of our lives – including in our roles as a leader, professional, mentor, teacher or parent.
“Our relationships all have a significant impact on our daily lives, including the way we perceive ourselves and others and the feelings we experience,” says Dr Roffey.
“A positive relationship can enrich our lives while a negative one can be the cause of deep distress. Unfortunately, much of the time we only give attention to relationships when things go wrong. That is why it is so important to understand in some depth how relationships might be enhanced in all areas of our lives.”
Dr Roffey, from the UWS School of Education and Centre for Positive Psychology and Education (CPPE), says Positive Relationships is firmly grounded in the science of positive psychology and has been written to appeal to a wide audience.
“Positive psychology has much to offer to enhance everyday living”, says Dr Roffey. “Healthy relationships can offer real meaning and sustainable fulfilment in our lives. Knowing what promotes the positive is the first step to authentic wellbeing.”
Professor Felicia Huppert, Director of the Well-Being Institute at the University of Cambridge says in the Foreword of Positive Relationships that this “seminal book moves beyond a focus on the individual, putting relationships at the heart of life going well.”
The chapters are authored by academics and practitioners from a range of disciplines and from across the world, each addressing positive relationships in the contexts of family, work, school and community.
The authors, and their respective chapters, include:
Professor Ann Brewer, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Sydney – Positive Mentoring Relationships: Nurturing potential.
Associate Professor Stephanie Jones and Dr Gretchen Brion-Meisels, Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA – Learning about Relationships.
Professor Margaret Vickers and Associate Professor Florence McCarthy at the School of Education, University of Western Sydney – Positive Community Relations.
Adjunct Professor Toni Noble, at Australian Catholic University (ACU), and Adjunct Professor Helen McGrath, at RMIT University – Wellbeing and Resilience in Young People and the Role of Positive Relationships.
Adjunct Associate Professor Sue Roffey at the University of Western Sydney – Introduction and Developing Positive Relationships in Schools.
Associate Professor Vagdevi Meunier, St Edwards University, Austin, Texas, USA and Wayne Baker, professional counsellor – Positive Couple Relationships: The evidence for long lasting relationship satisfaction and happiness.
Dr Karen Majors, educational psychologist and professional tutor at the Institute of Education, London University – Friendships: the Power of Positive Alliance.
Kimberly O’Brien, child psychologist and Director of the Quirky Kid Clinic, and Jane Mosco, educational psychologist – Positive Parent-child Relationships.
Emilia Dowling, previously Head of Child Psychology at the Tavistock Clinic and visiting professor at Birkbeck College, London, and Di Elliot, systemic psychotherapist – Promoting Positive Outcomes for Children Experiencing Change in Family Relationships.
Sue Langley, CEO of Emotional intelligence Worldwide – Positive Relationships at Work.
Elizabeth Gillies, educational psychologist and previously Vice-President of International Mental Health Professionals in Japan – Positive Professional Relationships.
Dr Hilary Armstrong, Director of Education at the Institute of Executive Coaching, Sydney – Spirited Leadership: Growing leaders for the future.
Zalman Kastel, Director of the Together for Humanity Foundation – Positive Relations between Members of Groups with Divergent Beliefs and Cultures.
Associate Professor Lois Edmund, Centre for Conflict Resolution Studies at the University of Winnipeg, Canada – Conflict and Confrontation.
Peta Blood, Co-founder of Restorative Practices International – The repair and restoration of relationships.
Robyn Hromek, Educational psychologist and Honorary Associate at the University of Sydney and Angela Walsh, Director of the Love Bites educational program for NAPCAN (National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) – Peaceful and compassionate futures: positive relationships as an antidote to violence.
“Each chapter of this book provides evidence on how healthy relationships enable both individuals and communities to flourish, what we can do to ensure these are the best they can be and what to do when difficulties arise,” says Dr Roffey.
“The evidence sometimes challenges current beliefs, for example what constitutes good leadership and how emotionally intelligent relationships make all the difference to effective work environments.
“The book predominately focuses on our shared humanity – what we all have in common, rather than what divides us. The overarching themes are fostering positive communication practices, treating each other with respect and building social capital.”
Positive Relationships: Evidence Based Practice across the World, published by Springer, is now available for purchase with five star reviews on Amazon.
Professor Ann Brewer will speak at the Official Launch, to be held at Gleebooks in Sydney.
This post was produced by Quirky Kid and first published at the Essential Kids website
Gratitude is a positive way of thinking and viewing the world. Raising a grateful child is a hard thing to accomplish in a culture that wants everything now and is quick to move onto the next best thing but gratitude is an important life skill. By learning gratitude, children learn to become sensitive to the feelings of others, developing empathy and other life skills such as the ability to view situations positively. Grateful children begin to learn to look outside their one-person world. When a child does not learn gratitude, there is a risk that the child may end up feeling entitled and perpetually disappointed.
Research suggests that gratitude is something that many adults have not yet developed and find difficult to practice. Children who are encouraged to be grateful throughout childhood, will typically be more appreciative later in life. A 2003 study at the University of California in Davis, showed that grateful people report higher levels of kindness, happiness and optimism. A little sacrifice causes us to miss things that we take for granted …
Strategies to Develop Gratitude
The research tells us that ‘gratitude’ is not an inherent natural behaviour, rather it is a learned behaviour. It is also important to remember that each developmental stage impacts on the capacity the child has to think ‘outside themselves’ and consider others.
We can begin to teach our children gratitude from a young age through modelling. Parents have to model behavior they hope their children adopt as their own. A simple, sincere expression of gratitude when your child does something they were asked to do is always appropriate. On the contrary, demanding ‘thanks’ from your children does not assist nurture the growth and development of gratitude.
We can begin to teach our children, and ourselves, how to think gratefully, by practising the following skills;
Teach our children to focus on the positive and find gratitude. This can be done by creating a gratitude journal and can be done as a family. Reflect together on the best parts of the day. This teaches children to pause and think about the good things in their day. Also, redirecting children’s attention to all that they currently have, rather than ‘what they want’.
Celebrate the ‘small’ things. Help your child focus on the things they have achieved, whether big or small. Sharing successes with family members and friends, keep a special folder or box and collate ‘keepsakes’ which help the child remember what they have achieved, the positives in their lives and the happy experiences and memories.
Teach through example. If you notice a lack of the gratitude attitude, consider teaching through example. Responding in a grateful way, and labelling this ‘gratitude’ behaviour will assist your child learn the ‘how to’ of gratitude.
Establish family rituals. By having family rituals which centre around gratitude, children learn to express thanks. Examples of family rituals include, each family member listing one thing they were grateful for during their day, or, writing thank you notes to each other once a week.
Try going without. From time to time, consider a family project that involves going without something important. For example, try making bread for a week rather than buying it, or try walking in your local area, rather than using a car. A little sacrifice causes us to miss things that we take for granted and helps us be a more humble and grateful when the thing is restored.
The impact of a person’s birth order is often underestimated as a significant factor in identity formation. The environment at home impacts on child development and birth order can influence how a child is treated by parents and siblings.
Our birth order impacts how we are perceived by our families and can relate to the amount of responsibility, independence and support we are given as children.
Birth order can also change the way parents raise their children. In most cases parents develop skills over time. The first-born child may be raised in an environment of anxiety if parents are unsure of their new role. This can result in more anxious first-born children. As parents become increasingly comfortable with raising children, they will typically given their second or third born child more freedom to explore etc.”
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“Ideally, children should be raised as individuals. Parents should do their best not to discriminate between children. Making comparisons between siblings is dangerous as this can promote competition” says Kimberley O’Brien, Child Psychologist at the Quirky Kid Clinic.
However, the effects of birth order on a child’s personality may diminish over time. “As we mature we are less affected by the behaviour of our parents and our initial family unit” says Kimberley. While parenting effects diminish as children progress into adulthood, maternal bonds may differ according to birth order. One study of 426 mothers relationships’ with their adult children revealed a deeper emotional connection with their youngest child, yet they would be more likely to contact their oldest-born child when facing personal crises. (Suitor & Pillemer, 2007).
In general, first-born children are typically independent, trailblazers, with the propensity to be anxious or dominant. They have also been shown to be higher achievers, more conscientious and more patient. Second-born siblings are more open to new experiences and demonstrate more rebellious tendencies (Healey & Ellis, 2007).
The ‘middle child syndrome’ is popularly characterised by children who might be lacking in identity, trying to please others with no defined goals or vying for attention from their older and younger siblings. However there is little truth to this idiom, in Kimberley’s opinion. “Middle children can be influenced by their elder siblings, and have increased social opportunities with younger and elder peers.” One study of 794 adult middle-borns revealed no reduction in relationship quality with their family members. They did not preference friendships over family relationships any more than other birth orders (Pollet & Nettle, 2009).
Children born last in line typically gain more attention within the family, however they may display more immature and dependent characteristics than their elder siblings. On a positive note, they have been shown to be more agreeable and warm (Saroglou & Flasse, 2003). Interestingly, one study of 700 brothers found the younger brothers were 1.48 times more likely to participate in high-risk activities (Sulloway & Zweigenhaft, 2010). Another study revealed an interesting dissociation: boys with older siblings were more likely to engage in sports like football, whilst girls with older siblings were less likely to participate in extracurricular activities such as community service and school bands (Rees et al., 2008).
Only children can be easily dismissed as spoilt or lacking social skills, however their access to more resources and more parental attention certainly benefit their development.
The literature is divided as to whether birth order significantly impacts a child’s IQ, however one recent study revealed there are approximately 3 IQ points, or, a fifth of a standard deviation between first-borns and second-borns (Black et al., 2011). The discrepancy is not biologically determined, but more a result of birth endowments, allocated resources and the independent personality traits commonly associated with eldest children. These birth order effects are slightly more pronounced for girls (Kristensen & Bjerkedal, 2010). The same effects were found in a study of 2,500 adolescents in a child and adolescent psychiatry clinic (Kirkcaldy, Furnham & Siefen, 2009).
There have been theories that birth order can influence your choice of potential romantic partners. “Couples may be able to more easily relate to each other if they have the same birth order, such as two first borns may be comfortable with independence and increased responsibility. They may also have experience caring for younger siblings,” says Kimberley.
While there are documented effects of birth order on factors such as personality, risk-taking and academic performance, parents would do well to ensure each child is given equal attention, nurture and resources.
Black, S. E., Devereux, P. J., Salvanes, K. G. (2011). Older and wiser? Birth order and IQ of young men. CESifo Economic Studies, 57(1), 103-120.
Healey, M. D. & Ellis, B. J. (2007). Birth order, conscientiousness and openness to experience: Tests of the family-niche model of personality using a within-family methodology. Evolution and Human Behaviour, 28(1), 55-59.
Kirkcaldy, B., Furnham, A. & Siefen, G. (2009). Intelligence and birth order among children and adolescents in psychiatric care. School Psychology International, 30(1), 43-55.
Kristensen, P. & Bjerkedal, T. (2010). Educational attainment of 25 year old Norweigans according to birth order and gender. Intelligence, 38(1), 123-136.
Pollet, T. V. & Nettle, D. (2009). Birth order and adult family relationships: Firstborns have better sibling relationships than laterborns. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 26(8). 1029-1046.
Rees, D I., Lopez, E., Averett, S. L., Argys, L. M. (2008). Birth order and participation in school sports and other extracurricular activities. Economics of Education Review, 27(3), 354-362.
Saroglou, V. & Flasse, L. (2003). Birth order, personality and religion: a study among young adults from a three-sibling family. Personality and Individual Differences, 35(1), 19-29.
Sulloway, F. J. & Zweigenhaft, R. L. (2010). Birth order and risk taking in athletics: a meta-analysis and study of major league baseball. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(4), 402-416.
Suitor, J. J. & Pillemer, K. (2007). Mother’s favouritism in later life: The role of children’s birth order. Research on Aging, 29(1), 32-55.