Protect children from sexting

Help children understand the impact that sexting could have on their wellbeing to ensure they think critically about what they share with others.

What’s on the page?

Talking about sexting with your child

Advice on how to start a conversation about the issue of sexting with your child
Display video transcript
Have an age-appropriate conversation with your child about sexting as they become more independent online – particularly around the time when they start having romantic relationships.

Encourage your child to think critically about what they share and the impact it could have if it was shared with the wrong people. Remind them that once an image has been sent, there is no way to get it back, nor of knowing where it will end up.

Talk about the effects of peer pressure and help them understand that the results of giving into it can be much worse than standing up to it.

Talk to your child about having some responses ready if they are asked to send an explicit image.

The time to talk about sexting with your child is as soon as they start using the internet or get a mobile phone.

Explain what can happen to an image

Remind your child that once an image has been sent, there’s no way of getting it back or knowing where it will end up. Ask them to think before they send a picture of themselves: ‘would I want my family, teachers or future employers to see it?’

Be prepared

Talk to your child about having some responses ready if they are asked to send explicit images. ChildLine has created a free app which has witty images to send in reply plus advice on how to stay safe.

Tackle peer pressure

Show you understand how they may feel pushed into sending something even though they know it isn’t the right thing to do. Help them to understand that the results of giving in to pressure could be much worse than standing up to it.

Here are are few tips on the type of conversations you can have with your child to help them understand what sexting is and the impact it can have on them and others.

Focus on 'what if' situations

Explore how they would deal with such a situation and whether it would be something that they’d consider doing

  • Do you know people that have done it – did anything happen – did it go wrong?
  • Do they do it to flirt or for fun?
  • Would you ever send nudes?

Healthy relationships

If appropriate, discuss what a healthy loving sexual relationship should look like so they are aware of what to look out for if they are pressured into sexting. Use this video from Amaze.org as a conversation starter to get them thinking about it.

Have open and honest discussions

Make sure they know that they can come to you to share their concerns and get support without judgement.

Body confidence

Talk about how they feel about their body image and body confidence and the role of peer pressure can play.

Use news stories to talk about it

Use real-life examples that they can relate to, to explain the risks.

Relationship changes

Explain that even if they are sending images to people they trust, relationships can change and cause issues.

Not everyone is doing it

Make the point that not ‘everyone is doing it’ if they are ever pressured.

Influence TV shows and social media

Discuss how seeing images of Instagram and reality TV stars in ‘sexy poses can encourage them to do the same and also mainstream TV shows such as Naked Attraction.

Things you can do to support them

Here are are few things you can do to protect you child and equip them with the tools to address it.

Create a family agreement

Put a family agreement into place to help them understand what is appropriate to post

Use scenarios to teach them how to respond to requests for nudes

Help them think about potential responses if they are asked to share a nude, the Zipit app from Childline can help

Teach them how to report reporting incidents

Review their privacy settings on social media so they only share with people they know

Signpost trusted sources for help

If they can’t talk to you, direct them to trusted support like Childline to talk to trained councillors

Expert from Webwise Ireland shares tips on how to talk to young people about sexting.
Resource document

Create a safer environment to help children share their digital life with expert tips.

See guide
Scroll Up