Posting nudes and sexting 

Advice for Parents & Carers

Get insight into the reasons why young people may get involved in sexting and what you can do to support your child on this issue and resolve the situation.

sexting icon on smartphone

What you need to know

Young people may believe that ‘everyone is sharing nudes’ and feel pressured to do this if they believe they are in a romantic relationship. In fact, this is not true. Nobody should feel that this is expected or that they have to do this to keep a relationship alive.

Vulnerable children are more at risks

Under 10% of teenagers under 16 are sharing nudes or sexting, but the percentage is far higher among young people who are vulnerable or have additional needs. This is very often an emotional or mental health need or a learning difficulty.

In these situations, other people may take advantage of their neediness or trusting approach to friendship and can manipulate the child to share a nude or explicit image by pretending to be in a romantic relationship with them.

It’s not all about the pressure to send nudes

Young people who have shared nudes do not always do this because they are pressured. Some tell us they do it for fun or because they thought they looked good.

All communication online is a form of personal expression and it needs a sensitive approach from parents to explore this issue with their child as they develop their identity in their teenage years. They should not be shamed or punished but helped to understand that this is not appropriate or even lawful.

How might this happen?

Here are a few examples of how this may happen and what signs to look for.

Signs that your child may be sharing nudes

Here a list of things to look out for that may indicate that your child may be sending nudes and in of your support.

  • Your child receiving many more messages than before at all hours (controlling behaviour)
  • A new relationship that is moving too fast
  • Your child is asked to talk on another social media app
  • Your child looks upset on receiving messages
  • Your child is talking to someone on video/facetime a lot more than before
  • Your child hides their phone or becomes secretive when you approach
  • Your child is seen with a new phone. In rare cases, a child can be given a smartphone to use to communicate with this person who tells them it is a gift because they love them.
  • The intention is to hide the relationship from parents and carers. Care experienced children talk of being given a fancy phone by someone who seemed to ‘love’ them

What you can do to help them

  • If your child is being pressured to send nudes by a person or group from your child’s school, approach the school or other people in charge if it is a youth group, care setting, or other organisation. They have a duty to safeguard your child
  • The person who leads on safeguarding within a school or service should be told and they will follow the steps that are needed to investigate and report this
  • Mediation may be used and a school will try to prevent any further sharing of the image/s by other students
  • Encourage your child to tell you if anything worries them online or on their phone
  • Do not threaten to take away their phones or close their social media accounts
  • Some young people believe that their online life is their identity and they barely exist without this. If they fear you will take these steps, they may not confide in you when they most need to do so. They may also fear that they will lose their friends and sources of support
What the law says

It is against the law to try to solicit sexual images from a child and to possess or distribute explicit images of a child. Under the law, anyone under 18 is a child. If the child is under 13 the offence is even more serious For more information, visit gthe Child law advice website.

Since January 2016 the police have the option to record an incident as “Outcome 21”, which makes a note of it taking place but not putting it on a criminal record. Many sexting incidents are now dealt with in this way. However, for more serious incidents (for example, deliberately sharing an image to abuse – using the image to coerce or exploit the victim) prosecution may still take place.

Where to go for help

The Zipit app can help your child fend off requests to share nudes from young people they know. It provides witty ways to say ‘no’ and advice.

Childline – a free helpline.

Childnet Project deSHAME – resources for educators to tackle sexual harassment.

CEOP – If you need to make a report to one of CEOP’s Child Protection Advisors.

If you believe it is more serious than one-off inappropriate behaviour between young people who have now apologised and tried to make amends, you are free to report it to the police.

Advice for young people in this resource includes: