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Sexting

Information for parents

What is sexting?

Sexting is the act of sending or receiving sexually explicit content such as text, video or an image. This often happens via digital devices such as mobile phones and tablets.

How sexting occurs

Sexting often takes place on social media networks such as Snapchat or Kik and the content can be shared between people in relationships, friendships or strangers. Sexting most commonly happens between two people in a relationship, but is also considered to be a method for flirting if the participants are not yet in a relationship.

Whilst sadly there are cases reported where young people have been forced into sexting through grooming, harassment or peer pressure, there are also many sexting cases involving young people where theywho have sent sexually explicit pictures or videos of themselves without any pressure on them at all. In all cases of sexting, it’s imperative that your child is aware of the consequencesits consequences. of sexting.

How it makes your child feel

If your child has sent any sexually explicit content and is in control of who sees it, or wasn’t pressurised into sending it, some say it can make them feel more confident, it can boost self-esteem or make them feel sexy. These are usually their motivations for sharing.

On the other hand, often those sending content lose control of it – usually when the recipient shares the content without the sender’s permission, and the effects can be devastating. Sometimes the sender may not have considered that they may fall out, or break up with the person they sent it to, yet that person will still have those pictures or videos of them to use as they wish.

Whether they’ve been blackmailed or pressurised into sexting, or the person they shared the content with has disseminated it without your child’s permission, it can leave them feeling embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated.

What to do if your child has received sexually explicit content:

  • Escalate to your child’s school or the police immediately if you discover sexually explicit content of a minor (someone under the age of 18) on their device
  • Talk to your child directly if you discover they have pornographic content of someone over the age of 18 on their device, just as you would approach a conversation about the “birds and the bees”, trying not to pass too much judgment
  • Parental controls you have in place should be revisited to ensure your child isn’t easily able to access pornography on their devices
  • Age limits on social networks, apps and games should be communicated to your child (eg. the Terms of Use on Instagram state that you must be at least 13 years old to use the service)

What to do if your child has sent sexually explicit content:

  • Legal implications of sexting should be communicated to them, so they are aware that they are breaking the law
  • Talk to them about the situation – how it came about, what their motivation was, how it made them feel etc. Let them open up to you and help them to manage it in their own way
  • Escalate to your child’s school or the police to see if they might be able to support you in stopping the content from being shared further, as well as discussing any disciplinary action that needs to be taken, particularly if it’s a case of revenge porn

Sexting factsheet

Our factsheet features all of the information on this page, plus our jargon buster, information about the law and links to useful websites.