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Getting help with sexting incidents
There are online predators on any platform where there are children. If you suspect an adult is contacting your child about nudes it is critical that you investigate if this has happened and then take action so that it can't happen again.
Many global laws also consider any image or video depicting the nudity of a child to be exploitation material. This can include images or videos that a child themselves might consider funny or a joke such as snapping a friend on the toilet, mooning someone, or surprising them in the shower. At this age, this is the more likely scenario you will find yourself dealing with if there is an issue with nudes, so have discussions with them about what it means to share this type of content, and how a victim might feel about having intimate pictures of their body posted online (joke or not). It is a great opportunity to connect the dots with them when it comes to a person's digital footprint and the permanency of information once it is posted online for all to see and share.
At this age, the images or video shared may have more to do with silly jokes or games that have been taken too far. Regardless, this can be embarrassing and upsetting for your child and should be treated seriously.
Do your best to convey confidence in your child that you are able to help manage the situation by collecting any evidence you can regarding where and with whom the images have been shared (while ensuring no copies of the photographic content are kept).
Report the incident to any relevant internet platform and, where necessary, the police. Also, consider involving your child's school to help support them should this incident involve real-life friendships, where online actions may spill into the schoolyard. Don’t forget to check in at a later date to see how your child is feeling about everything that transpired.
Co-mingled sites and games are melting pots for different types of adults and children, many of whom are unexpectedly confronted with requests like this. These incidents can be shocking, however, it is important to act quickly to protect your child, and any other children potentially receiving similar requests.
Collect any evidence about the person seeking the nude content, and report them to the platform as well as local law enforcement. Block the profile and review your child's privacy settings and filtering options in apps and games.
Discuss with your child the importance of not speaking to strangers online by using the 3 golden rules of online safety for them to assess whether someone is safe or not. This includes only speak to people whose first and last names you know, only speak to people you know in real life, and only speak to people your parents know and approve of.
Strongly consider the appropriateness of their access to platforms that allow your child to engage with others, and use parental control tools to help them stick with age-appropriate content.
Sadly, online predators exist on any platform children do, and they are endlessly on the lookout for opportunities to engage. If you suspect an adult is soliciting your child for nude images it is imperative you raise your concerns immediately with your child, and investigate whether this has occurred.
Ensure your child knows that no matter what, they can come to you for help, even if they think they’ve made a mistake by speaking to someone they shouldn’t.
Ask your child who this person is, where they know them from and what they have specifically asked them for. Document their answers, and collect any evidence you can about this person and report them to the online platform, and importantly your local law enforcement service. It is also vital to review your child's overall use of certain platforms and take steps to tighten privacy controls, block people they don't know in real life, and increase your supervision of their online activity.
Utilise parental control tools to help supervise or restrict their use of riskier platforms.
While many parents will find this shocking, children at this age are developing the need for autonomy and intimacy in relationships, and the sharing of nude images does sometimes play a role in this. Despite this, sharing “nudes” is still considered to be a criminal offence in most countries.
It is important to determine whether the content shared between your child and their partner was done so consensually, or whether coercion, pressure, harassment or force was involved.
It is very important to uncover how long this has been happening and where any other messages have been shared.
It is important to immediately take action to delete any copies of the content that has been shared from your child's device and ask their partner to do the same.
You should also consider notifying the parents or carers of your child's partner regarding what has occurred, and, where appropriate, restricting contact with that person for a short time period to reinforce your stance on the issue. Have open, honest conversations with your child about the risks of sharing nudes and help your child find some alternatives to partaking in this type of behaviour that still allows them to create trust in their relationships, yet reiterates expectations that it doesn't happen again.
Once you become aware that your child has received images or video of this nature from a peer, you need to take action on two things:
Oftentimes, nude images are forwarded without the knowledge or consent of the person depicted. It's important you tell the victim that this image has been circulated so they can take action to prevent the spread of the content.
When speaking to your child, ask some clarifying questions about how they came to be in possession of the nude. Why would someone share that image with you? Has this happened before? Do you know this is against the law? Reinforce the seriousness of the issue, find opportunities for praise if they sought help, and clarify your expectations for the future.
This can be an incredibly traumatic situation for your child. The breach of trust, embarrassment, anger and shame they may be feeling can be all-consuming, but what will help is your confidence in showing you know what to do to minimise the spread, and jump into action.
Start by collecting any evidence you can, including the social media handle/username, profile information, and URLs where the content has been posted. Do not make any copies of the image or video, however.
Report the image online, and ask anyone directly linked to delete the picture. You could conduct a reverse Google image search to identify any other locations the image or video has been posted, and support your child by being non-judgemental and ensuring they can access a service to speak to a specialist if they need it.
Your child's school may also have access to a wellbeing support team who can help. It is important to find time later on to have a more serious conversation about your child's choice to share a nude. When you do, try to stay curious and non-judgemental in your approach.
Take action quickly by collecting evidence about the person or profile (although you should not make any copies of any explicit material), and help your child block and report the person online, as well as reporting them to local law enforcement.
If this has happened on a social media platform, website, or game, it is imperative to report the profile to the platform so they can commence an investigation to prevent this person from contacting your child again, but also to ensure they are not able to contact other young people for the same purposes.
Reiterate the rules of online interactions with your child, by using a digital device contract to outline key points and the reasons they are important. Create a positive outcome by utilising the situation as a learning opportunity for them to understand the real-world risks of online environments, and reiterate your expectations when it comes to their use.
Review their settings on social media and games, and consider the appropriateness of certain platforms by reviewing apps and games here.
If someone is contacting your child about nude images, you need to report this to the platform or game they are on straight away, as well as notifying local law enforcement. Soliciting nude images from children is a criminal offence, and should be taken seriously. It is important to ensure the profile of this person is investigated for any wrongdoing.
It is also important to review the restrictions you currently have in place regarding the apps and games your child uses. While most apps and games state that users should be 13 years or older to use them, it is still imperative that as a parent you restrict what features you feel are inappropriate for their age. Review the app or game here for an overview, and get them to review their friends and followers lists and remove anyone they don't know well. Ensure they are not utilising geolocation services and, where necessary, engage age-appropriate parental controls so you can adequately supervise your child.
Teens at this age often feel a social expectation to participate in some form of sexting, however, most are not “doing it.” In reality, only a very small percentage of teens have actually sent a nude or semi-nude image of themselves, however, once shared, many are circulated around.
While sharing nude images is still considered a criminal offence in most countries (and the legal ramifications should not be understated), there have been certain amendments in some locations that create exemptions on the basis of consensual sharing between teens of this age, to reflect the changing nature of their technology use and to minimise legal ramifications. Get legal advice relevant to your state or territory regarding this.
Non-judgemental conversations with your teen are the way to go here. Engage your teen by being curious as to why they shared the images, and enquire about their thought process should things not turn out as they expected. Respectfully challenge their assumptions by using examples - What happens if your partner loses his phone and hasn’t deleted the pictures yet, even though he intended to? At this age, get them to think critically about the consequences of their actions, and to expect the unexpected.
One of the most important considerations here is whether the person depicted in the image knows it has been shared. Odds are they don’t, and if not, this situation is defined as Image-Based Abuse.
Firstly, take into consideration how you found out about this nude being shared. If your teen has come to you, praise them for seeking help.
Next, ask them how you can best help them manage this incident. It may be deciding how to tell the victim this has happened, or whom to report the issue to. Where you can, encourage your teen to collect any evidence to assist in this being reported (but be sure not to make any copies of the image, and delete the original). If your teen knows it has been posted more publicly, help them report the content online and escalate to local law enforcement where necessary. You may need to involve your teen's school as well if this relates to a connected student group.
Non-consensual sharing of intimate images can be extremely upsetting for a young person, causing them much embarrassment and humiliation. This behaviour is also widely legally considered to be image-based abuse and should be immediately reported to local police.
If the image has been posted on a social media platform or website, report the content to them immediately. Collect as much evidence as possible about the person who has shared the content, such as screenshots of names, profile handles, profile pictures and URLs, and ensure your teen understands that while it may not be wise to create and share a nude, the breach of trust and the non-consensual sharing is not their fault.
It is also critical that you check in on how your teen is feeling after the situation has calmed down, as residual tension or negative feelings may still be impacting them significantly. You can use some of our conversation starters here. Your teen's school may also be able to assist you.
The sharing of nude images between young people is still widely considered a criminal offence and you should help your teen find practical and effective ways to safely say no and ask the person to stop. Praise their resistance to the request and, where necessary, block and report the person if they continue asking.
It is also useful to collect any evidence you have of this request occurring, and report the person to the platform where the request took place, as well as informing local law enforcement. Also, consider the age of the person requesting the image when compared to your teen. Similar age defences to sexting exist in many countries around the world, however, an adult cannot request, possess or distribute images of this nature from a child, no matter the relationship.
Your teen's school wellbeing team should also be able to provide guidance and support on this issue.
It is a criminal offence to groom a child or solicit nude images so you should help your teen immediately block and report the person to the platform where this has happened and inform your local law enforcement service.
Collect as much evidence as you can regarding the interaction, but also ask your teen clarifying questions about how they originally came into contact with the person in question. How did they introduce themselves? What made you start talking to them in the first place?
Answers to these questions could contain clues as to who this person is, and how and why they targeted your teen. Take the opportunity to reiterate the risks of the online world and break down how “harmless chat” can result in these types of issues, and potential malicious use of their personal information in the future.
Using everyday examples such as those seen in the media to reiterate the importance of online safety helps a lot, and be sure to stay curious about their thoughts on the topic too. Praise them for seeking help and let them know you are always there to support them using the digital world healthily and safely.