Scrolling through Twitter this morning, the first thing that caught my eye was about Dylan Sprouse (whom our kids know best as Zach from Suite Life). A few clicks later, and I could see — in all his glory — what the story was about. At some point, Dylan had sent nude(ish) pics to a “friend” who has apparently leaked them for the world to see.
I knew we would be having the digital footprint talk with the kids again today. This isn’t the first time this has happened (Hello, Vanessa Hudgens), and it’s always tricky when these things happen with celebs our kids love. We all know celebrities should never really be role models, but the truth is kids do look up them.
They see them as the characters they play. This isn’t Dylan Sprouse, 21-year-old college student, to them. He is simply Zach Martin — tween hooligan. I was prepared for the conversation to focus on separating them and point out the poor decisions people make, how they can go viral, and haunt you for life.
Then this happened (warning: said photo is included there), and my respect for him actually grew. I have been incredibly impressed with how Dylan Sprouse has handled the aftermath. It has given me even more material for the conversation with my kids, because we now have even more lessons to learn from him.
- Private messages aren’t always private. We’ve had this conversation before, but this gives us a real life example of how something you sent privately to a friend could suddenly be available to the whole world.
- Own up to your mistakes, and make no excuses. Never once did he try to hide it, deny it, or pass blame. He has owned this from the very beginning.
- Be careful who you trust. One of the things he mentioned in his response was that he trusted the wrong person with his photo. It is often hard to determine real friends from frenemies who will turn on you for a laugh (or the right price!).
- Maintain your sense of humor. My favorite part is how he’s been willing to laugh at himself through this. I kinda want to follow him now, just for the related hilarity.
This is how I framed the conversation with my teens and tweens. It wasn’t just about acknowledging the things they had heard and discussing (again) why you should never send anything in a private message that you don’t want to be public. I think there’s a lot more to his response that is important for kids to see. It’s more than just this mistake he made and the nude photos now floating around. How you react to a situation says a lot about a person.
And Dylan Sprouse is still a person I can respect.