How to talk to your teenager about sexting?

Sexting is the electronic sending and receiving of photos and videos that are sexually suggestive or explicit, often containing nudity, sex acts, texted sexual messages, or sexting emojis. Talking to your kids about sexting can feel awkward for everyone but it is an important conversation to have, especially considering this phenomenon is on the rise among teenagers.

2021-01-15 Maltese Safer Internet Centre awareness love, relationships, sexuality (online), sexting parents and carers

Sexting online often starts as a solicited request from one teenager to another, containing promises of privacy, true love, or popularity. Instead, many teenagers find that the content becomes public, love is equated with sexual activity, and popularity comes at the teenager’s expense.

Not only can teenagers be subject to heartbreak, humiliation, and cyberbullying from their peers, but there are also some very serious legal repercussions that can result from sexting among teenagers.

Talking with your teenagers about sexting can be a tricky conversation. The goal is to create an environment where they feel they can be open with you about sexting but also make them aware of the serious consequences that can happen as a result.

There are some ways to address sexting in a constructive way for your teenager: 

  • Ask what they think – Before jumping into a conversation about what you think about sexting, ask them if they have heard of it and what they think about it first.
  • Create an open door – Sadly, there are many examples in the media where images and videos went viral only to ruin a career, a relationship, or a reputation and these stories can be a great opportunity to talk with your teenager about sexting.
  • Stay connected and informed
  • Help them create healthy boundaries – Your kids will need to be taught why it is not a good idea to engage in sexting and what to do if they feel that someone is pressuring them into it. Even if the image, video, or text was only meant for one person, once it has been sent or posted, it is out of their control. It could be seen by lots of people and may very well be impossible to be erased from the internet even after your teen thinks it has been deleted.
  • Have small conversations – Frequent conversations in small doses are far more effective that just one long, boring, threatening lecture about not sexting and staying safe on the internet.
  • Persistence pays off – It might be pretty tempting to just shut down your teen’s accounts or to lock up their phones when they come home from school, but this can backfire pretty severely. Doing so could end in mistrust and result in your teen hiding more from you than before.

Find out more about the work of the Maltese Safer Internet Centre, including their awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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