Sexting: my teenager wouldn't do that - are you sure?
Sending nude images to a boy – my teenager wouldn’t do that?
Most parents would be surprised to discover that their children are sending or receiving nude photos but shockingly it is normalized in this era of smartphones and social media.
One such parent is Gay Longworth. Shivers ran down our spines as we chatted with mother Gay and daughter Roxy for our podcast about their harrowing experience which caused Roxy to have a psychotic breakdown and ripped her family apart as she self-harmed and attempted suicide.Roxy who was 13 years at the time was coerced into sending nude images of herself to an older boy at school. Overcoming this horrendous experience they collaborated to write an incredible book When You Lose It which recounts in brutally honest detail how and what happened from both mother and daughter’s perspectives. By telling this personal and distressing story Gay and Roxy hope that it may prevent it from happening to other families.
So what is Sexting?
Sexting is when you send sexually explicit messages, videos or photos via mobile phone, computer, or any digital device. It includes being partly or totally naked, or in your underwear. It is illegal yet statistics from The Lucy Faithfull Foundation | Preventing Child Sex Abuse show that 60% of children in the UK have been asked for a sexual image or video. The FBI are taking it so seriously that they've launched a national campaign in the States.
Sexting often starts as a joke, a way of getting attention, or as flirting. As parents it is imperative we discuss the issue with our children to ensure they understand the risks and what to do, if or when they're pressured to participate to send explicit photos of themselves.
How Can Parents approach the topic of sexting with their children?
It is a discussion that we Gen X parents didn’t have with our parents and therefore many of us are totally oblivious of what is going on in our teenager's and young adults' lives. But don’t be naive and think your child is too smart to do something which is now so normalized. Ofsted reports on seeming normalisation of sexting - Online Safety Alliance in the world today.
It is not an easy conversation and could well be embarrassing for both parent and child but remember as soon your child has access to a mobile phone or computer they are vulnerable.
To start the conversation you can discuss plot lines in TV shows or films or stories that have been in the news. For example; “ Do you know what sexting is?” "I heard on the news a story about a girl who is in trouble for sending naked pictures of herself to a friend. Did you hear about that?" Try and get them to lead the conversation and make sure you listen and are not judgmental- it’s a very different world out there!
Keep the conversation informative and supportive– they may be rolling their eyes and appear not to be listening - but at least they know you are there for them should they need help or advice
Tell them it is not OK to ask or pressurize anyone into sending a photo
Explain that even though they may only be sent to a friend who promises not to share the photo that friend’s siblings may have access to the phone and may share the photo either deliberately or accidentally. Explain that once the images are out there they leave a digital footprint and it may be there forever. Deleting a post or photo does not mean that it cannot be shared.
Tell them you understand that it appears to be the ‘norm’ but try and get them to think about the consequences – what would their friends think? What if everyone in their whole school saw the photo or video? FACT: It is illegal to send a nude image if you are under 18 years old? The age of consent is 16, and the relevant age in relation to indecent images is 18. They are breaking the law. (But don’t terrify them so they are afraid to speak to you in the future).
What if your child has been sexting?
If your son or daughter tells you they have been sexting, don’t be angry. Put yourself in their hormonal teenage shoes! The fact that they have spoken to you it is likely they are worried, so tread really carefully. Ask them about the circumstances and what led to why they sent or received the photo or message. It could be that they are being bullied or just didn’t think it was wrong. Don’t start a blame game – it’s too late. Your child is asking for help.
What can you do to help?
Tell them to ask for the message/images/videos to be deleted and to delete all messages on their devices
If they are under 18 and a nude image or video has been shared online, it is possible to get it removed from the internet Report Remove | NSPCC
They must not reply to any threats or blackmail- it is incredibly frightening so they need your trust as a parent or carer to stand up to the threats.
·HOWEVER, they have committed an offence by making and possessing that image and by sending the images to another person.They have then committed a further offence of distributing the image. The person who receives the image will also be liable for an offence of possessing the image. It is crucial you contact local police for advice and guidance. Please be aware that, while offenses may technically have been committed by the child/children involved, the matter is normally dealt with sensitively and considering all of the circumstances.
Our heartfelt thanks to Roxy and Gay for sharing their story.
Listen to our podcast episodes with Roxy & Gay on Coercion, Cosent & Consequences
What people are saying about the book:
‘Read this book. Then talk to your sons. It is essential reading ‘Jamie Theakston
'An extraordinary and important book. Read it immediately' Claudia Winkleman
'Superbly written, this deeply moving book underlines how truly precious mother-daughter relationships are, and never more so than in those teenage years' Gloria Hunniford
Listen to our podcast episodes on Coercion, Cosent & Consequences with Roxy & Gay Longworth
Visit our resources page which has a collection of useful links from 3rd party websites and content and more tips for empty nesters.
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