Today’s teenagers are more likely to send a nude picture than go on a date. Scary, isn’t it?
You may have had the talk, but have you had the sext talk? Sorry to break it to you, but this one is even more difficult to navigate.
After speaking with 20,000 teen girls through her business Enlighten Education, CEO Dannielle Miller knows what your girls want to hear. And it’s not just that they’re ruining their reputations.
“We’re now being asked to navigate technology in ways that are really quite new. When we grew up as teenagers we didn’t have constant texting, we didn’t have social media, pornography was something we maybe found in the back shed or under dad’s bed and had a bit of a peek at,” the teen girl expert says.
“Now everything is 24/7, very in our faces, and during this time of experimentation any mistake we make can be recorded and come back to haunt us forever.”
Dannielle joined the This Glorious Mess podcast this week to placate a terrified Holly Wainwright who is dreading her daughter Matilda’s looming teenage years, and all the mistakes she is bound to make.
“I’m in fear because my kids aren’t at this point yet. I feel like all the messaging I get around teenagers at the moment is really negative… I just want to go live in a cave” says Holly.
And while you may be tempted to crawl into that cave alongside Holly, it’s imperative that you have these conversations with your daughter. Openly and honestly.
Because whether you like it or not, half of all sexually active teenagers are sending sexts, and a massive 70 per cent have received them.
“The reality is that young people, when they’re over the age of consent, will say that they now see this as a normal part of sexual relationships. We might not like that, but that is absolutely what they say,” says Dannielle.
But be careful how you word things. Let her know she can talk to you about it.
"If we shame young people and tell them that 'if you ever do that I'll be so cross you'll ruin your life' then they'll never come to you," the CEO and author says.
"It's just a variant on 'your school dress is too short,'" agrees Andrew Daddo.
And remember when I said you had to be honest? Yep, I meant it. If you've ever sent a naughty picture to someone, now is the time to 'fess up. Share your experiences, however raw, icky or uncomfortable it may be.
"Teenagers aren't the only ones sexting, adults are sexting all the time as well... We can have a dialogue that doesn't come as us being up on a pedestal," Dannielle says.
But if even some of us adults have done it and we're trying to lay off the shaming, why are we still telling teenagers not to do it?
"We don't want our teenage girls sexting. I genuinely do not want my teenage girls sending naked photos of themselves because I can see, as an adult, the damage that will do," says Andrew.
"If my 25-year-old wants to go do that then good luck to her!"
There's a very good reason why there are different rules for teenagers and adults. And quite simply, it comes down to their age and ability to consent.
Your daughter may argue until she's blue in the face that her flirty picture exchange with bae was fully consensual, but the age of consent for sexting is 18. Not 16. Eighteen. Adulthood. And anything else is child pornography.
And that can get teens into a whole lot of trouble.
Many underage kids don't realise that their sexting is treated by the courts as exploitation and child pornography. If caught, this has the potential to ruin not just reputations, but lives too. They may be branded a criminal and even land on the sex offenders register.
It's an area where the law where the law is yet to catch up with society and technology.
Dannielle said the current generation of teenagers should be celebrated more for their triumphs.
"Teenagers generally are volunteering at greater numbers than ever before. This generation of teenagers are binge drinking far less than any other generation, they're having less unprotected sex than any other generation, they're doing much better academically, they're staying on at school longer, but we never hear any of this," Dannielle says.
"I have a teenage daughter, I work with 20,000 teen girls a year, I find them remarkably funny, vibrant, loyal, passionate... Girls are doing remarkable things!"
Have you had the sexting talk with your daughter?