Many teens believe that anything they want to do with their bodies and their phones is their business. They enjoy the privacy and freedom that cell phones give them from their parents and guardians, but what happens when they use their cell phones to explore their sexuality?
Teens who take, send or forward sexting images may face:
• Embarrassment if their picture is shown to family, friends, classmates and even strangers.
• Bullying or harassment from peers who judge them for sexting.
• Trouble at school if they have violated a school policy. Some teens have been kicked off of athletic teams or suspended from school.
• Future consequences if the image follows them for a long time. It may be seen by college admissions officers or even potential employers.
• Trouble with the police. In extreme cases, kids can be charged for sending or forwarding nude images of minors.
How to Talk About It
• Ask questions to make it clear you’re comfortable discussing it. “Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to sext? Have you ever received a sexy picture from someone?”
• Discuss what characterizes a healthy relationship. “Any person pressuring you to sext isn’t someone you should trust. Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go, but a sexual image of you can stay around forever.”
• Explain how quickly images can spread online. “Once the photo is sent, it’s out of your control.”
• Emphasize the importance of not forwarding sexts they receive. “You do not have the right to decide who should see someone else’s body. Forwarding images is a major violation of trust and exposes the person in the picture to potential ridicule. Imagine how you would feel if someone betrayed your trust by sharing a nude photo of you.”
If Your Child's Image is Already Out There
• Help them report it to the websites/ apps where the image is posted. Make it clear your child is a minor, and it was posted without his or her consent. You should also report this to NCMEC's CyberTipline.
• Talk to school officials so they can help stop the spread of the image and any harassment that may be happening.
• Contact the police if your child is being blackmailed, harassed or if it involves an adult.
• Above all, offer support. Assure them that you’ll get through this together. Consider seeking professional counseling if they need help coping