What parents need to know about sexting

June 6, 2017 Published by

The children of today are growing up in a world of technology and social media that is very different to the world we grew up in.  It is important that as parents, educators and carers, we all understand the pressures and implications of this and talk openly with our children about it.

Sexting – sharing sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others – has become increasingly common with teenagers. A study by the National Citizen Service revealed that one in five teenagers have sent nudes and explicit images to other people, whilst 36 per cent revealed that they admitted they had received at least one sexual explicit image. 

“Sexting may also be called sending nudes, dirties or pic for pic.”  – NSPCC  

Why do children sext?girl taking photos using her phone


There are several reasons as to why young people sext by sending explicit photos/videos:

  • Joining in because everyone else is doing it
  • To get attention and connect with new people through social networking
  • they may find it difficult to say no if somebody asks them for an explicit image, especially if the person asking is persistent.



What are the risks of sexting?



While it may seem harmless and fun to the young people involved, they need to be made aware of the risks involved – and understand that it’s not just parents being prudish.

Once an image has been sent, you no longer have any control of it – which means it could end up anywhere and be seen by anyone. This might as a result of cyberbullying or for revenge, for example if they have an argument with the girlfriend/boyfriend they have sent the picture to.

It is also important that children are aware that the creating, sharing and possession (even with permission) of explicit images of a child under 18 is illegal – even if the person is a child themselves.

How can you discourage your child from sexting?

Education and conversation are key; openly talking to your children about your expectations and letting them know what could happen is essential. Try to be clear that it’s not because you don’t trust your child, but that you are concerned about the risks. 

We need to empower our children and give them the confidence to say ‘No’- although this is easier said than done. If you’re worried your child is under pressure to send photos or videos of themselves, there’s an app from Childline called Zipit* that gives them an alternative comeback to keep the situation under control (as well as some useful advice).

If you’d like more guidance, please check our eSafety hub on how to keep your child safe online.

Also, Childline has a brilliant page on their website aimed at children, which has lots of tips and stories and is a great starting point if you are going to talk to your child about sexting at home.

There is also lots of sexting advice on the NSPCC website

* Please note that Zipit has not yet been tested or endorsed by the Good App Guide.

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This post was written by Claire Gillies

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