Sexting is a really tricky topic for parents to deal with. How can you provide sexting advice when it literally didn’t exist when you were young? But a lot of the advice on sexting is similar to sex advice generally. Find out how to talk to your kids about sexting.
Although sexting advice is similar to sex advice, there are also some important key differences, especially around privacy. Read on and find out how to keep your kids safe.
What is Sexting?
Just like sex itself, sexting comes in a variety of different forms. From sexy texting, to sending nude images, to performing sex acts on over mobile video.
KidsHealth describes sexting as sending:
- nude or nearly nude photos or selfies
- videos that show nudity, sex acts, or simulated sex
- text messages that propose sex or refer to sex acts
Why do Teens Sext?
New Zealand research suggests around 15% of teens are sending sexts, and around 1 in 4 teens have been asked to send a sext. So it’s perhaps more common an activity than you might think.
KidsHealth also has some great advice on why teens are attracted to sexting in the first place. Arming yourself with this knowledge will help you to understand where your teen is coming from, and help you to relate better.
Most teens have various ways to get online, Smartphones, tablets, and laptops all can be used in private. It’s very easy for teens to create and share personal photos and videos of themselves without their parents knowing about it.
Girls may sext as a joke, as a way of getting attention, or because of peer pressure or pressure from guys. Guys sometimes blame “pressure from friends.” For some, though, it’s almost become normal behaviour, a way of seeming cool, or becoming popular.
Is it Illegal to Share Somone’s Nude Images?
The research outlined above also suggest that 3-4% of people have been threatened with having their intimate pictures shared online; this is a form of cyberbullying for teens.
One of the biggest risks around sexting is having your exploits shared with others online. This is something you should definitely discuss with your teen. Both how to avoid it in the first place, but also what to do if this happens or they’re threatened with it.
Sharing someone’s nude or intimate images or videos online without their permission is image-based abuse (sometimes also referred to as ‘revenge porn) and it can be an offence under New Zealand law.
If prosecuted under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the penalties for this offence can be a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years in prison.
7 Tips for Talking About Sexting to your Kids
Family Zone have some fantastic tips on how to talk to your kids about sexting. We’ve paraphrased this below:
- Make educating your kids about sex a top priority. If you don’t educate them, somebody else will.
- Don’t assume that your child will make good decisions around sharing nude photos with their partners, or others. Teens minds don’t always work in a way we think is logical, especially when sex is involved.
- Discuss the risks of sexting, and particularly what they think might happen to a photo they share, and how they would feel if it was shared online. Talk about how they might seek help if this ever happened.
- Spend some time talking to your child about their ‘digital footprint’. Talk about how this footprint can stay around online for ever, and potentially impact their life, career or relationships in the future.
- Talk about who they can talk to and where they can get help if needed. They may not want that to be you, so ensure they have a safe person to confide in.
- You can also talk about safe sex generally. Although sexting has its own rules, the decisions around sexting are similar to decisions we make around sex. Self-esteem, peer pressure, treating others respectfully, bullying, what’s OK and what’s not, etc.
- Keep your conversations open and honest. It’s OK to tell your child you don’t have all the answers. Keep the lines of communication open, and make it safe for your child to talk about sex to you.
And remember, a lot of the discussions around sex and cyberbullying are relevant to sexting. You can find out lots more information on those topics in our Teens: Sex section and our Grown ups: Technology section.