Our experts' guide to identifying and managing sexting.
ySafe Digital Parenting - Sexting
Sexting (or sending nudes) is the distribution of intimate photos or videos via electronic devices. Although we may not want to hear it, sexting is fast becoming common practice in the courting process of teens and adolescents (sorry Mom!).
Whilst exchanging nudes is often perceived by teens as a bit of harmless fun, there can be serious social and legal consequences.
Research indicates that 1% of youth aged 10 to 11 years appeared in, created, or received nude images or videos. The prevalence of sending and receiving sexts appears to increase in age until eighteen years old.
However, many of the issues around mass distribution and the unsolicited sharing of nude images seem to arise around the 14-16 year old age bracket.
Understanding the motivations for sending nudes is an important part of knowing how to educate about the risks of sending nudes. Research from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner found that the key reasons that teenagers sent nudes were because they wanted a relationship (67%), to be told they are attractive (68%) and because they were pressured into doing it (70%). When we educate our kids, we need to not only explore the risks of sending nudes, including the distribution of the content to others, but we need to address their 'why'. We can talk to them about healthy relationships and peer pressure, as a start.
Research shows that the location and environment impacts the likelihood of a teen sending explicit images or videos. Nudes are most frequently sent or received late at night. This is likely due to the sense of safety of being alone in a bedroom, assuming that parents may be in bed and therefore no interruptions are expected. We strongly suggest that all families implement a device-free bedroom rule (particularly at bedtime) to minimize the use of technology late in the evening when cyber safety risks occur most frequently.
Here are our three top insights direct from ySafe's leading cyber safety experts.
Laws around the production and distribution of intimate images vary by country and region. It’s important that young people are familiar with the laws that apply to them, as in some cases, sexting can be a crime and hold heavy penalties with long-lasting impacts. This can include the taking, sharing, receiving, or requesting of intimate images or footage of a young person (typically someone who is under 18 years of age). In some cases, this material is considered child pornography, and any dealings with it are treated as such by law, even where creators and recipients are consenting participants in a relationship.
Research from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner (2017) found that 70% of teenagers said that pressure was one of the key reasons why young people sent nudes. In order to support teens, we need to ensure that we are equipping them with skills on how to handle peer pressure online. There is some great information for teens about this on the eSafety website.
Many young people use apps like Snapchat to share nudes, because they feel that the time-limited and “disappearing” nature of the content on Snapchat will safeguard them by preventing others from making copies of the image or video. It's important to discuss with young people that people can still make copies of nude content by using screen recording apps or taking videos with a second device (like an iPad). There is no way to send nude content and guarantee it will not be shared.
If you're concerned that your child may be involved in sharing or receiving intimate images, here are the steps that we would recommend you take:
Talk to your child about sexting. Now, this is easier said than done. Naturally, we want to enter into these conversations by telling (or yelling…) ‘don’t do it!’ BUT it’s unlikely that this will render the response that you’re after.
Instead, start by trying to get some insight into your child’s thoughts on the topic. Asking for their opinions on a real-life story can be a helpful entry point. This may be a sexting story that you’ve seen in the media, heard from the community, or something that happened to a colleague's daughter/son.
Ask questions such as:
‘Why do you think he/she shared the photo when it was supposed to stay private?’
‘Do you think either of them was in the right/wrong?’
‘Where could he/she go for help?’
What would you do if that happened to one of your friends?’
Respond to stories and your child’s responses with empathy. Phrases like - “l bet it would feel really humiliating if someone sent something very private about you to someone else.” This is a less authoritarian way to emphasize some of the bad things that can happen as a result.
Encourage your child to give some forethought to their personal boundaries and what they might do if someone they really liked asked them for a nude. Thinking about the best and worst-case scenario can be a helpful way to encourage them to consider risks.
Let your child know that it’s always ok to say ‘no’ and discuss some ways that they might do this. Depending on your child’s age and maturity, you may consider showing them some humorous alternatives to nudes.
Finally, encourage your child to know and use the platform controls (such as ‘block’ and ‘report’) if someone is harassing them for nudes.
Let your child know that if they ever have a question or run into trouble, they can talk to you and that you will do everything in your power to help them. Emphasize that even if they've made a mistake and done something wrong, you’ll still be there to help them.
If your child has sent a nude and the information has been distributed to others, it is essential that you report the content straight away to minimize the potential spread. It is advisable to report directly to the platform to have the content removed. The links for content removal of all the major platforms can be found in the 'Reporting Incidents' area of this portal. Making a report to the office of the eSafety Commissioner is also a helpful step. Reporting to the eSafety can be done here. You can also seek advice from your local police station.
What parents need to know.
How to report online safety issues.
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