Many of us have heard stories about online bullying and how devastating that can be for young adults and their families. Did you know that 1 in 4 teens are victims of online bullying? And this is not the only risk associated with online activities. At PCFSA, we hear many stories. The following story is an all too common one.
A young teen is talking with friends through an online app. A guy, who knows a friend of a friend, private messages her. This is exciting, she’s curious, and they begin chatting back and forth. Chatting turns to sexting, and then pictures are requested. She is scared and unsure, but she sends one to stop the barrage. She still gets bombarded. Requests turn into threats. She’s terrified, embarrassed, not sleeping, and she doesn’t know who to talk to. Finally, she tells her school counsellor, who calls her parents, and she makes a police statement. The police investigation determines that this is not a peer, but an adult, and there are several victims. She now begins the long road of healing.
Many parents do not realize how easy it is for even very young children to inadvertently access sites with explicit content. Links to adult content pop up even during innocent searches. Unfortunately, when a curious child or youth explores a link to explicit adult content, they have no context for what they are viewing. They may well find themselves exposed to violent or degrading visual images of adults, children and youth. Overwhelmed and confused by such images, the experience can generate feelings of shame and revulsion or premature arousal. Very quickly, our children can find themselves dealing with a toxic experience for which they have no language. As this exposure continues, it becomes more entrenched and directly impacts their values and their idea of intimate relationships.
Every year, PCFSA offers support services to 955 children and youth about the many risks encountered in the digital world as well as community workshops for parents and professionals. Our professional staff offer suggestions for children and youth to feel safe and be supported, to explore and be curious online—without the risk of being exposed to damaging images and content.
For private personal counselling, youth can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call or visit us today for more information about the PCFSA programs. Our GoWestShore Portal listing includes all of our contact information.