You may or may not have heard about ‘sexting’. It’s when someone shares nude or sexual images through their phone or online.
If you’ve heard of it, it’s probably been a media story about images being shared beyond the intended viewer. They are the cases where it has gone horribly, but sexting is something people are engaging in everyday.
With smartphone technology sexting has become a way of expressing sexuality and getting to know someone sexually. If you have a teenage son or daughter you need to talk to them about it.
We know that it’s not just for young people. There are also countless hacking stories in the media where people’s accounts or phones have been hacked and it’s clear that plenty of adults are sexting too.
Technology is new for all of us, and we’re all sharing the most intimate of items, no matter what age we are.
Access to smartphones have changed the way we communicate. Sexting is really just an extension of that.
For young people it can be a way to express commitment, maturity, to get attention or keep attention. This motivation isn’t unusual, it’s fairly normal teenage behaviour.
Be aware of that when you are talking to your son or daughter about it. Try not to judge, or make any judgements about the act when talking about it.
What is important to stress is that once any of us send an explicit image, it is not longer in our control and it could go anywhere and be seen by anyone.
Sometimes young people can feel pressurised into behaviour like sexting wanting to be liked and accepted.
Having open discussion about what is appropriate and what’s not can help. Like most behaviours it takes a lot of self-confidence to resist engaging in something just to be accepted.
Working on young people’s self-esteem can help them deal with pressure and working out what they are and are not comfortable with.
Today is Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, 9 February. This annual day is to remind us we all have a responsibility to make the internet a safe space.
We have heard from parents that they feel they don’t even occupy the same space online as young people.
Being perfectly realistic here, you’re probably not. That’s not to frighten or worry you further, only to let you know the reality, and there’s still a lot you can do about a safer internet for your children.
Communication about online safety needs to be an ongoing thing. What was occupying most of your daughter’s or son’s attention online last year may not be the same right now.
They could be playing a new game, or on a new network which potentially means new sets of online friends, that they’re talking to all the time. This is something you need to know about and understand the world they occupy.
Discussing the implications of online behaviour on a regular basis is important too.
Make young people aware that once an image or video is out there online, it is out there. It can no longer be controlled as to where it goes and who sees it.
There have been many high profiles cases of cyberbullying that are of concern to a lot of parents. Read more about cyberbullying, what it is and what you can do about it.
Have regular open conversations with your son or daughter about what they think is appropriate.
Keeping communication open with your son or daughter means you can ask them to teach you about technology.
It can be very difficult to curtail the amount of personal content your son or daughter shares online if you do it all the time. There are plenty of parents out there overly attached to their phones or ipads.
Make sure you all (that’s all of you) take time to be device free at stages in the day, to talk face-to-face.