“I have a 13-year-old son who I’ve recently found out has been pressuring a female friend into sending nude photos to him. I’m SO disappointed as I thought I was doing a good job teaching him about enthusiastic consent, legal issues with minors, and framing media news in a teachable way. But I’m going wrong somewhere.
Do any of you have any advice or resources for dealing with this?” – D
As with most situations like this, the onus usually gets put on the victim to stop doing something: succumbing to pressure, acting a certain way, complying to demands — but there’s been a shift in thinking, especially after a bright light has been placed on men in positions of power in the media. I’m glad to hear that you’re using it for teachable moments and worrying about how to affect your son’s behavior as opposed to wondering how to stop the girl on the other end of the phone. While she also needs to learn how to react when pressured to send illicit photos, the onus far often needs to be on the boys’ side to stop the behavior.
Even in my own research for this post, I noticed the immediate switch to educating the girl in the situation.
Even in my own research for this post, I noticed the immediate switch to educating the girl in the situation. Try Googling “how to stop teen boys from asking for nudes” and see how almost all of the results are something to the effect of “15 responses to use when someone asks you to send nude,” “Dear Teen Girl, Please Read My Story Before You Send Those Nudes,” and “How can I get a guy to stop asking for nudes?”
A recent New York Times article cited research that showed boys are four more times likely to pressure girls into sending nude photos than girls are to pressure them. In articulating why not to send those nudes, we need to be appending that nudes should also not be requested as well. As the NYT article posits, this won’t change things overnight, but it will start to change the norms of behavior and start to restructure the rules of what is and isn’t acceptable or crossing a line.
Boys are four more times likely to pressure girls into sending nude photos than girls are to pressure them.
It truly does sound like you’ve been doing all the right things to teach your son about consent and boundaries, but teens often need even more reinforcement through personal experiences or thoughtful conversations. It’s easy to tell you to take away his phone or punish him (and we did hear that as recommendations from our kick-ass readers on Facebook), but I think teaching him about the ramifications of the actions, whether they’re caught and punished or not, is key. Finding personal stories of the legal and emotional consequences can be helpful to share. Explaining that pressuring for nudes is a form of bullying may also be helpful as bullying education is actually more prevalent in schools than consent education and may have more of a foundation for understanding. Share with him stories from the girls’ perspective like this one.
This personal story is one you may want to share, too. Short version: teenagers have some major consequences when nudes get leaked. You may also want to direct him to a site like Scarleteen which is written especially for teenagers with sex ed in mind (thanks, reader Lauren, for calling this one out to me!). This article is particularly useful.
Legal consequences aside, keep on educating your son about consent whenever you can, and whenever something in the media prompts it. It’s too important and misunderstood to not be reinforcing constantly.
Let’s hear from other Homies for some advice:
It sounds like you’ve actually been doing everything right! Sometimes kids will make bad choices anyway (you know, that whole bit about their brains still developing and not quite grasping long-term consequences yet). As a teacher, I’d suggest a lengthy grounding from the phone/internet, and a sincere apology letter to the friend. – Terry
What I like about this response is that it makes it clear that the pressure was something the merits an apology. That it wasn’t an acceptable thing to ask of anyone and that it merits a response.
“No more phone and maybe some time volunteering at a anti-domestic violence organization.” – Augustus
Or if you can’t find an in-person place to volunteer:
I complete see the logic in volunteering, but maybe some kind of fundraising or distanced support would be more appropriate — a minor wouldn’t be allowed into a domestic abuse shelter/charity and the people there are vulnerable. It’s a great idea to connect him to those causes but it’s not responsible to get him (or anyone who isn’t a trained support worker or therapist) to physically go there. Some domestic abuse charities run workshops in schools about consent/healthy relationships/revenge porn etc., maybe look into that for the school too? – Roisin
“I like the suggestion of volunteering some time at a domestic abuse shelter. Kids and teens make mistakes, it’s important to use this opportunity to teach him, rather than just punish him. Good luck! Edited to add, I also second a heartfelt hand written apology to this girl!” – Dana
“I would avoid punishment. Sexuality and desire is not anything to be ashamed of. Have a direct conversation about how these feelings and desires are normal, but this is not a healthy outlet for them. Discuss consent, what is a healthy outlet for sexual desire, be open with him. Then ask what he thinks would be an appropriate way to make it right with his friend.” – Kristin
“Ask him why he thought it was ok… especially since it sounds like she repeatedly said no. Sometimes people, adults too, need to hear it aloud, unfortunately. And keep asking; Why did you ask her to send these? Everyone is doing it, I thought she would, etc. And explore each branch thoroughly till you get to the root.” – Kelli
“Such a problem area with tweens and teens at the moment. We teach students in junior high kids across the US about the power of their clicks. Never before in human history have our young people had so much power to quickly and radically change the trajectory of their lives as they do today. ‘When you click, will you choose to be awful or awesome?’ ‘Now screams loud, but later lasts longer. Don’t let the digital now ruin your later dreams.’ These are phrases we use with kids. As a parent, I believe he loses all digital privileges because life is a series of choice and consequence. And, at the same time, I would clearly show him what the path to regaining trust and access looks like. It’s his choice! I love the ‘love and logic’ idea about volunteering or maybe helping with prison ministry. Stay strong, parents! I don’t think this particular parent ‘has gone wrong somewhere.’ Instead, it sounds like a crisis has been averted, it’s time to be thankful, and continue being an awesome, vigilant parent. – Protect Young Eyes”