23 May 2016
Though parents have always had to be vigilant about who their children are friends with and who they’re talking to, these days smart phones, apps and the internet make it even harder to keep track of who kids are hanging out with.
However, with the online world full of potential dangers, it’s incredibly important that parents not only keep up to date with the latest apps and fads, but that they talk to their children about the dangers of digital communication and sexting in particular.
What is sexting?
Sexting involves sending sexually explicit messages and photos to friends, and sometimes strangers, via a messaging service. Though the media generally calls this ‘sexting’, a lot of teenagers call it sending ‘nudes’, ‘nude selfies’ or ‘dodgy pix’ instead.
Sometimes young people are encouraged to send naked pictures by a boyfriend, girlfriend or person they’ve met online, while sometimes a young person may send the images voluntarily.
A range of messaging apps are used for sexting, with Snapchat often the most popular as users mistakenly believe sent photos can’t be saved when using the app.
Distributing child pornography
Sexting is dangerous for a number of reasons and if your child or their friends are sexting, it’s important to talk to them about possible repercussions.
Something that not many young people realise is that sending a sexual image of a child under 18 to friends and contacts can be classed as distributing child pornography. Even if the photo is of themselves, a young person can still be charged and placed on a sex offenders register.
Talking to your children about child pornography and possible convictions is important as any criminal record involving child pornography will prevent them working in certain professions when they’re older and can impact their life in other ways.
No control over publication
As soon as an image is sent via a messaging app, you lose all control over it. It’s not uncommon for a photo to be shared around a group of friends, or even sent around a school, something that can cause the sender a huge amount of embarrassment, upset and stress.
These photos can also be sent all across the web, with the person in the photos having no say at all in how they’re used. Even if they think they’re sending a photo to someone they’re in a relationship with, young people need to understand that it just takes one share for a photo to start to go viral. Even if the recipient doesn’t share the photo immediately, they can use the threat of sharing it to force a young person to send more explicit images.
If you’d like more advice about talking to young people about sexting and child sexual exploitation, have a look around our website or call us on 0808 800 1037.
And if you’ve got any tips and hints of your own on how to explain the dangers of sexting to children and teens, let us know on our Facebook page.