After decades of relative silence surrounding sexual harassment, the revelation of new scandals in Hollywood has brought the issue into the forefront of media attention. Awareness of this issue has been sparked further by the #metoo social media campaign, which encourages women of all ages to place #metoo as their status if they have ever experienced sexual harassment. These hashtags were answered with other hashtags to include men and promote change. Hopefully the increased awareness of how prevalent sexual harassment is will help us to uproot this common practice from our society.
Even as we strive to rid ourselves of deeply entrenched structures that allow sexual harassment, have we stopped to think about the new societal structures that are forming and how they facilitate sexual harassment among our teens? How can we best equip our teens and tweens to handle this issue in an ever changing world, pushed by technology and constant access to social media platforms?
First, I would encourage everyone to read my blog on unparenting ourselves. We cannot begin to be a positive influence in the life of our youth if we are suffering from the negative effects of sexual harassment ourselves. However, through working on ourselves we will be able to help our children be well equipped to meet sexual harassment when it comes. Here are 4 tips to begin discussing sexual harassment with your teens.
- From a young age, children need to be taught the correct terms for their anatomy. This may feel wrong, as even I have trouble typing the words vagina and penis in a blog post because… It just doesn’t feel proper. It doesn’t feel right. It’s icky. However, if we do not start identifying these body parts by the correct name, then our children will have trouble communicating with us when someone has touched them inappropriately. Speaking to our children openly and honestly about their bodies will help them to increase their own self-awareness and self-expression.
- Explain to your teen the rules of your house. This will be different for every parent. Teens need to know your expectations and guidelines for using their mobile devices and social media applications. The birds and the bees talk is no longer as simple as it may have been in a 1950’s TV show. Parents now need to include smartphone usage into the conversation.
- Help your teen to develop his or her own set of standards. Discuss with your child the different situations he or she may face. This will help to develop their problem solving skills for when they are confronted with that or similar situations. For example, a teen needs to decide before they are asked to send a nude selfie whether that is what they want to do and what the consequences are, before they get asked for that selfie. If they haven’t decided what their response will be before being asked, they may make a decision they come to regret.
- Be aware of your teen’s social media habits and friend groups. Be clued in to what they are feeling and where they are expressing it. We can help our children to express themselves in a manner that is healthy and balanced. Also, through knowing their social media habits, we may be better equipped to catch bullying or harassment before it gets too far.
Do you have a teen or tween at home? How have you found ways to communicate with them on important issues such as sexual harassment. Let me know in the comments section below.
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