What can I do if I suspect my child is sexting?

If you’re worried your child might be sexting or you simply want to know how to protect them, here is some simple advice to help them make the right choices when sharing images online.

If you’re worried your child might be sexting or you simply want to know how to protect them, here is some expert advice to help them tackle the issue.

How should parents respond to support their child if they are sexting?

It can be difficult to hear that your child has been involved in sexting. You may feel angry or upset but it is important that you listen to what they say and reassure them that you will help. Remember that they are likely to be feeling anxious and will need your support. Try not to shout or make them feel like it’s their fault.

It is important to find out who they have sent the images to and where they have been shared. If they have been sent to another child, get in touch with the school to stop it being spread further. If it has been uploaded to social media, you can report this to the network. For help, get in touch with the O2 NSPCC Online Safety Helpline for free on 08088005002.

If your child does not know where the image is being hosted, encourage them to speak to Childline, who will work with the Internet Watch Foundation to try and get it removed from the internet. You can speak to a Childline counsellor for free by ringing 0800 11 11 or in an online chat at childline.org.uk.

For more advice, take a look at nspcc.org.uk/sexting.

Dr Tamasine Preece

Head of Personal and Social Education
Expert Website

Is it now considered the norm that teenagers will sext if they are in a relationship? How can parents encourage their children to think critically before sending a nude picture of themselves?

Media hype, as well as safety messages promoted within schools, can give teenagers the impression that sexting is the norm. The point of any conversation about a risky behaviour is to support the young person to think critically and independently, although many teens care more about fitting in and the approval of others.

The fact of the matter is that it’s the minority of teenagers who take part in sexting. Although I have certainly supported young people who have been caught up in asking or sending images, many students say that they have never been asked. Some young people can be rather judgemental of the behaviour, seeing it as tacky or ‘cringey’ and suggesting that a request for a nude image is a good indicator that someone isn’t respectful or serious about having a relationship.

More alarmingly, they also suggest that the whole purpose of sexting is to share it with others. Teenagers are well aware of the legal and personal implications of sexting: In thinking critically before sending a nude image, whether it’s unsolicited or in response to a request, it’s important for them to reflect on what they hope to achieve in sending a nude image of themselves and the likelihood of getting that outcome.

Julia von Weiler

Psychologist & Executive Director
Expert Website

How can parents find ways to talk about sex, relationships and sexting with their children with confidence rather than a sense of awkwardness? 

We need to learn to speak about these issues matter of factly like we talk about hygiene, food, sports, the news. Parents are role models for relationships – always. Life presents many opportunities to talk about sex. When children are litte, its about kissing and how children are created. The older they get, the more they hear from others and most probably will see online. Talking about sex is not embarrassing and does not mean to talk about details of sexual practices, etc. It’s about letting your children know that they are in charge of their bodies. They get to decide what they like and dislike and how far they want to go.

Sexting becomes an issue once they possess their first smartphone. Again, it’s teaching them to be in charge of themselves, their images and not giving in to peer pressure or pressure of someone they like very much. Sexting actually is a new way of sexual interaction and as with any sexual interaction we all should be aware and careful with ourselves – our bodies and self-images.