Love, Always

It can be a scary world out there for kids & teens

Here’s what YOU can do to help (even if you’re not a parent).

Fifteen days ago, Newsweek reported that hundreds of intimate, nude photos of female celebrities were leaked online after hackers broke into these women’s private photo albums.

My heart goes out to all of the women whose accounts were violated.

It’s such a violation to have your private life exposed without your permission, regardless of whether you are a celebrity or not, and I hope that the people responsible are brought to justice.

We live in an era where your most private details — not to mention, the most private parts of your body! — can be flashed online because of one wrong click of a button, or because of a hacker with devious intentions.

It’s scary, but of course, there’s a lot that we can do to protect ourselves from harm.

And there’s a lot that we can do to protect our children and teenagers from harm, too — both online and out in the world.

As a psychologist, I’ve worked with hundreds of concerned parents who come into my office with questions like these:

How can I make sure that my teenager is being safe, online? And at school? And after school? And (eek!) everywhere?!

What age is the “right” age to start allowing my teenager to go on dates? Should I be chaperoning her / him, every time?

My daughter struggles with self-esteem issues and I’m worried she might be having sex, already, in an effort to seem “cool” around her friends. I don’t know what to do.

My teenager won’t listen to me when I try to have The Talk about sex and dating, and I’m worried she’s / he’s already in trouble. What now?

These are important questions. Teenagers face all kinds of potential threats and temptations — which, combined with peer pressure, a need for approval, raging hormones and good old fashioned curiosity can lead to a whole lot of trouble.

All it takes is one minute, one moment, one poor decision to result in consequences that could derail a teenager’s entire life.

I’m not saying this to be alarmist — I’m saying it because it’s true.

So, what can we do?

If you’re a parent:

You can start by educating your kids and helping them to make good, self-respecting choices about dating and sex.

Ideally, this education process should begin long before they reach their teenage years. But it’s never too late to have a positive impact and take action to keep your child safe.

My latest digital guidebook — The Life Guide On Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices About Dating + Sex — can help you have these kinds of tricky conversations, set appropriate rules (and consequences) for dating, sleepovers and parties, and help give your teen the best possible chance at a happy adult life.

Teen Dating Life Guide_Dr. Gelb

Get yourself a copy of the Life Guide, here: http://drsuzannegelb.com/life-guides/#teen-dating

If you’re not a parent:

You can still play a role in keeping teens safe.

For starters, why not talk to a teen about safety, self-respect … and sex? (With their parents’ permission, of course).

Teens are often much more likely to take advice from an adult who is NOT one of their parents, so if you’re an aunt, cousin, older sibling, or even a friend of the parents, you can play an important role in keeping a teenager safe.

I’m working on a post right now that can help you find the right words, if you’re feeling tongue-tied about what to say. (I’ll post the link, as soon as it’s up.)

If you’re a teenager:

First of all: thanks for reading! :)

YOU can lead by example and show your peers at school that being safe, honoring your parents’ guidelines about dating, parties and curfews, and treating your body with the utmost respect … is extremely cool.

To grown-ups and teenagers, everywhere:

Make smart choices. Love your body. Treat yourself with absolute care and respect — and ONLY associate with people who treat you with equal respect.

. . .

PS. Do you remember what it felt like to be a teenager?

Was there an adult figure in your life who had a profoundly positive impact on you? What did they do?

The comments section is now closed. But read and learn from stories that readers have shared in the past.