Sexting is the sending (texting) or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive words or images.
Sexting can sort of sound like a fun thing to do with a close group of friends or maybe a long term partner but there can be some major fallouts. These texts can be easily circulated by forwarding them to others and shared via the many streams of social media. They become public very quickly. Unfortunately, you cannot get these images back or delete them and they may be found by others doing searches on your name.
Did you know that if your child is under 18, it is illegal to:
- Take a sexy image or video of themselves. This is creating child pornography.
- Send a sexy image or video of themselves. This is the transmission of child pornography, even if they wanted to do it.
- Receive and keep a sexy image or video of someone else under 18 whether you asked for it or not. This is possession of child pornography.
- Share a sexy image or video of someone else who is under 18.
- Ask someone who is under 18 to send you a sexy image or video of themselves. This is soliciting child pornography.
If found guilty of the above, they can be placed on the sex offenders register and even serve jail time.
What should you do if your child’s private sext goes public?
- Your child’s emotional well-being is your first priority. I highly recommend reading When kids make mistakes online: what should parents do? by Martine Oglethorpe. I have a technical background and only my own parenting experiences behind me so when I saw this article heading it quite literally made me stop in my tracks. I’m all about creating safer online environments for children and discussing online safety but the reality is that children do make mistakes and need our support when they happen.
- Head straight to the Office of the esafety Commissioner website’s image-based abuse page. This page offers information on how to take action as well as providing support and information about the involved legalities.
Talk to your child about Sexting.
If your child has access to a device with a camera and texting/messaging capabilities then it could be time to have a conversation with your child about sexting. If they are young, then you could start off the discussion by talking about or revisiting the rules around sharing photos. Do the photos reveal your location? Is your school identifiable in the photo? Is there a family picture on the wall in the background?
I then recommend taking a situation involving image about that has been on the media recently. For example: The AFL Tigers player who shared a photo of a semi-naked woman and shared it. You can then discuss with your child what they think about it, if they think it was the right thing to do and what might happen to the person who did it.
Take the opportunity then to talk about an action plan with your child. Let them know that they can come to you and that you will support them.