Almost every device has a camera. And almost every child has a device.
You might know what sexting is, you might not. But being aware of it, and the support available, will help you protect your child and others.
- Talk: having the conversation
Talk to your children, about the apps they use, who they talk to and what to do if they're worried. Our Share Aware page has videos you can watch together and a guide on how to get the conversation started.
It can be difficult to talk to your children about sex and sexting. Teenagers might be defensive so try to talk to them about what they're doing without intruding too much. Remind them that anything they send is out of their control once it's sent. Make sure they know they can say no to sexting, despite peer pressure.
Let them know they can talk to you, or another adult they trust, if something online makes them worried.
- Explore: understanding sexting
It's the act of sending and receiving sexually explicit or rude texts, videos or photos. It's sometimes called sending nudes, underwear shots, sexy pics or dirty photos. They can come from anyone. It's not a new thing, but for some young people it's becoming a normal part of life.
Many young people are reluctant to talk to adults about it because they're afraid of being judged or having their phones taken away. They might think sexting is harmless but it can leave them vulnerable to bullying, blackmail, unwanted attention or emotional stress. It's important to talk to your children about the risks of sexting, how to stay safe and who they can talk to if something makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Manage: taking control
Set up parental controls on your child's phone to filter and restrict content, and agree what apps they can use.
Your children can get advice about sexting from ChildLine or the Thinkuknow website. ChildLine has a free app for young people called Zipit, giving them funny images to send when someone asks them for a rude photo.
If you need more advice, call our online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002 or visit an O2 Guru in one of our shops.
- What apps could they use?
Apps like WhatsApp, Kik and Snapchat give a fun and instant way for kids to chat and share with each other. Some children use these apps because they think they're more anonymous or they think messages disappear. But once they've sent a photo, it can be screengrabbed, saved, forwarded, uploaded or edited without their permission.
Older children are more likely to use video messaging apps, especially anonymous ones like Yik Yak, ooVoo or Omegle. You can see from our NetAware reviews that these apps can expose young people to more sexual images.
If your child is under 18 and sending explicit images, they could be breaking the law. Even if the picture is taken and shared with their permission. If your child is worried, get help. Call our helpline on 0808 800 5002.
To find out more about the apps that your children might be using, visit the NetAware website.
- What if my child has been affected by sexting?
If they've been sending photos or videos of themselves, your child is probably quite anxious about talking to you. Listen to them. Reassure them they're not alone and let them know you'll do all you can to help.
Ask who sent the picture or video, and if it's been shared. If a child has lost control of a sexual image, get in touch with ChildLine. They can work with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to try and get the image removed.
If your child was pressured by someone to send the picture or video, speak to your local police, school or call the NSPCC helpline for advice. If your child sexted a friend, think about contacting their parents to stop it going further. If the picture or video has been shared with an adult, report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
Your child can call ChildLine at any time to talk to someone about how they're feeling. ChildLine counsellors are trained to talk to young people and can give advice and support without judgement.
You can get advice from an NSPCC Helpline counsellor any time. Just call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.
The children pictured are models. Photography by Jon Challicom.