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Our experts' guide to identifying and managing sexting.
ySafe Digital Parenting - Sexting
Sexting (or sending nudes) is the distribution of intimate photos or videos via electronic devices. Although we may not want to hear it, sexting is fast becoming common practice in the courting process of teens and adolescents (sorry, Mum!).
While exchanging nudes is often perceived by teens as harmless fun, there can be serious social and legal consequences.
Research indicates that 1% of children aged between 10 and 11 years appeared in, created, or received nude images or videos. The prevalence of sending and receiving nude images increases until eighteen years of age; however, many of the issues surrounding the mass distribution and unsolicited sharing of nude images seem to arise around the 14 to 16-year-old age bracket.
Understanding the motivation for sending nudes is an important part of knowing how to educate about the risks. Research from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner found that some of the key reasons teenagers send nudes are because they want a relationship (67%), to be told they’re attractive (68%), and because they’re pressured into doing it (70%). When it comes to the wider sharing of these images without the consent of the person depicted, research has shown one of the main reasons young people do this is not to harm or hurt someone else but often for boasting rights. When we educate kids, we need to explore the risks of sending nudes–including forwarding the content to others–and address their ‘why.’ As a start, we should talk to them about healthy relationships and peer pressure.
A teen’s environment can also be a facilitating factor in the sending of explicit images or videos. Nudes are most frequently sent or received late at night. This is due to the sense of security that comes from being unsupervised in a bedroom, assuming that parents may be asleep and therefore no interruptions are expected. We strongly suggest that all families implement a device-free bedroom rule (particularly at bedtime) to minimize the use of technology late in the evening when cyber safety risks become more common.
Here are our three top insights direct from ySafe's leading cyber safety experts.
Under existing Commonwealth laws, it is an offense to take, keep, send, receive or ask for an intimate image of a person under the age of 18.
The introduction of the Intimate Images law has made it a crime to distribute an intimate image without the consent of the person in the image, with the maximum fine for doing so being $18,000. The penalty can also include imprisonment, with maximum times varying among states.
Research from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner (2017) found that 70% of teenagers said that pressure was one of the key reasons why young people sent nudes. To support teens, we need to ensure that they are equipped with skills to handle peer pressure online. There's some great information for teens about this on the eSafety website.
Many young people use apps like Snapchat to share nudes, as they are under a false sense of security that the disappearing nature of the images and videos on Snapchat will safeguard them from others making copies. It’s important to ensure teens know that others can still make copies of nude content by using screen recording apps or taking videos with a second device (like an iPad). There is no way to share nude content safely.
If you have concerns about your child sexting, here are the steps we recommend you take:
Talk to your child about sexting. This is often easier said than done. It is natural for parents to want to enter into these conversations by telling (or yelling), ‘Don’t do it!’ but it’s unlikely this will render a positive response.
Instead, start by trying to get some insight into your child’s thoughts on the topic. Asking for their opinion on a real-life story can be a helpful starting point. This may be a sexting story that you’ve seen in the media, heard from the community, or something that happened to a colleague’s daughter or son. Ask questions such as: “Why do you think they shared the photo when it was supposed to stay private?”, “Do you think either of them is in the wrong?”, “Where could they go for help?” or “What would you do if that happened to one of your friends?”
Respond to the stories and your child’s responses with empathy. “I’ll bet it would feel humiliating if someone sent something very private about you to someone else.” This demonstrates a less authoritarian way to emphasize some of the bad things that can happen as a result of sexting.
Encourage your child to give some forethought to their personal boundaries and what they might do if someone they really liked asked them for a nude. Thinking about the best and worst-case scenarios can be a helpful way to encourage them to consider the risks.
Let your child know that it’s always ok to say ‘no’ and discuss practical strategies or ways they might do this. Depending on your child’s age and maturity, you may consider showing them some humorous alternatives to nudes.
Finally, encourage your child to know and use the platform controls (such as ‘block’ and ‘report’) if someone is harassing them for nudes.
Let your child know that if they ever have a question or run into trouble, they can talk to you, and you will do everything in your power to help them. Emphasize that even if they’ve made a mistake and done something wrong, you’ll still be there for them.
If your child has sent a nude and the content has been distributed to others, it is essential you report it straight away to minimize the potential spread. It is advisable to report directly to the platform administrators and ask them to remove the content as soon as possible. You can find the links for content removal of all the major platforms here. Making a report to the office of the eSafety Commissioner is also a helpful step. Reporting to the eSafety Commissioner can be done here. You can also seek advice from your local police station.
What parents need to know.
How to report online safety issues.
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