Helping your child with difficult sexting situations
If you and your child have open and honest conversations about sexting, your child is more likely to feel he can talk to you if he gets an image that bothers him, or if he's worried about an image he has sent.
You can help your child feel comfortable about talking to you if you tell her you won't be angry if she finds herself in a difficult situation because of sending a nude.
Your child gets a sext: what to do
If your child gets an unwanted sexually explicit message, talk through how to respond:
- If the sender is your child's friend, ask your child to delete the message and tell the friend not to send any more messages like that. Encourage your child to practise saying no in ways that feel comfortable.
- Tell your child not to forward the message.
- If your child doesn't know the sender, ask your child not to respond and to block the sender.
- Ask your child to tell you or another trusted adult if he keeps getting unwanted images.
If your child is getting sexts from someone she doesn't know and you think the person is connected to your child's school, contact the school.
If you think it's a criminal matter, especially if an adult is contacting your child, you can make a complaint to the police. For example, it's a crime if someone sends your child an unwanted naked picture.
Your child sends a sext: what to do
If your child has sent a sexually explicit message that he regrets, it's important to support your child and reassure him that together you'll deal with it:
- Ask your child about the context of the message: did your child feel pressured to send the sext or was it consensual to start with? Also check on the content and who your child sent the sext to.
- Advise your child to delete the sext from the phone, computer or wherever it's stored.
- Encourage your child to ask the person who received it to delete it.
- If your child uploaded an image of herself to a social media site, encourage her to delete the image. Show your child how to delete the image, or how to contact the site to get the image deleted.
If you think it's a criminal matter, you can make a complaint to the police. For example, it's a crime if an adult has asked your child to send a sexually explicit image.
Your child's sext gets shared: what to do
It's important to stay calm if a sexual image of your child has been shared. Images that are shared among peers are rarely uploaded to public websites.
Your child needs your support and reassurance that together you'll deal with it:
- Reassure your child that it's not his fault that the image was shared.
- Ask your child about the content of the sext and find out who it has been sent to.
- Help your child ask the people who received the sext to delete it.
- Speak to your child's school for help identifying the people who might have the image and sites where the image might be posted. If the image has been uploaded to social media or other websites, help your child find out where the image might be and contact the websites to ask for the image to be removed.
- Encourage your child to block anyone who makes offensive comments or asks her for unwanted images. Show your child how to block unwanted senders.
If you think it's a criminal matter, you can make a complaint to the police. For example, it's a crime if someone shares - or threatens to share - a naked or sexual picture without permission. If this is the case, ask your child not to delete the messages as the police will need to see them.
If a sexual or nude image of your child has been shared, your child might feel guilty, ashamed, humiliated and distressed. For some young people, this situation can lead to depression or thoughts of suicide. It's likely to be very upsetting for you too. You and your child can get support by contacting eheadspace on 1800 650 890, Kids Helpline for teens on 1800 551 800, or Lifeline on 131 114.
Your child shares someone else's sext: what to do
If your child has shared a sexually explicit image of someone else, it's important to support your child and reassure him that together you'll deal with it:
- Ask your child about the context of the sext: who sent the sext that she shared and why did she share it?
- Check on the content of the sext and who your child sent it to.
- Encourage your child to ask the person or people who received the sext to delete it. You can help your child do this.
- If your child uploaded the image to social media or other websites, help your child to contact the websites to ask for the image to be removed.
- If your child sent the sext to someone at school, speak to your child's school to ask for help to make sure the image isn't shared.
- Help your child contact the person who sent the sext to tell them that it has been shared.
It's also a good idea to encourage your child to ask himself these questions:
- Did the person in this picture mean for it to be shared?
- If someone else sent the image, did that person have permission from the person who's in it?
- How would I feel if somebody shared something like this with me in it?
It's important for your child to know that sharing sexual images without a person's consent is a type of sexual harassment or abuse and your child can get into legal trouble.
If you think it's a criminal matter, you can make a complaint to the police. For example, it's a crime if your child was forced into sharing one or more images, or if there's an adult involved.