Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Plea to Boys and their Parents

Twice a year members of my church gather to hear counsel from our Prophet and Apostles. With today's wonderful technology we are able to do this in the comfort of our home....still in our jammies. This morning my 16 year old and I were listening to the wonderful talks when she received a message from a young she thought was a friend. It was a short message, but one that has upset her day and mine. He asked her to send him nude photos. This is the second boy to send her something along these lines in less than a month. Fortunately, I am very close with my daughter and she shared what she had received. She didn't respond and she went about removing him from all social media contact with her.

When a girl receives a message such as this it is not flattering. It is demoralizing. It may be an off the cuff gesture to the young man - but it leaves scars in its place. A girl who receives a message such as this feels violated, and feels as though she should hide, even though she has done nothing wrong. I am so grateful my daughter has the courage to be with me open about her texts, facebook posts, and photos on Instagram. Although I have wonderful parents, when I was sexually assaulted as a teenage girl I was afraid to tell anyone and didn't until I was an adult. I felt worthless and ashamed and so I kept it to myself. Seemingly simple messages such as the ones my daughter has received are an assault to her spirit and well-being, even though they are not a physical assault.

My first reaction to this message was anger, followed by sadness. I wanted to talk to the boy's parents, but wasn't sure where to start. As I looked him up on facebook I discovered that he was not "friends" with his parents or any other adult. Parents have been counseled on a regular basis on the importance of being aware of their child's activities on the internet, and yet there are still kids whose parents have chosen not to follow that counsel. To some teenagers this may seem intrusive, but as a parent it seems wise.

I am also sad because this boy, and the author of the first message my daughter received, are both members of our church. I know the teachings they have been taught, and, to be honest, I hold them to a higher standard. I know that our Father in Heaven loves them both and is a generously forgiving parent. Knowing this, however, does not mean that my daughter will ever spend time with either one of these boys. The first boy who sent a message a few weeks ago apologized to my daughter the next day for his "trashy" (his words) behavior and wanted to know if they could still be friends. My daughter's answer was a simple "no." As a mother, I would not willingly let my daughter spend time with someone who looks at her as anything less than a daughter of God who is trying to live the Christian lifestyle in which we wholly believe.

Parents, please make sure you are monitoring your children's social media behavior and teach them the power of their words. Boys, please understand that how you treat the young women in your life not only impacts them, but it will determine the kind of husband, father, and friend you will be in the future.