Sexting—how to start the conversation with your child

You can’t monitor your child’s activities all day, every day, but you can have open, constructive conversations about sexting. Having these conversations early means that your child is better equipped to deal with situations involving sexting and make safer online decisions. They are also more likely to come to you if things go wrong.

How can I start the sexting conversation with my child?

You know your child best. Tailor your approach to their level of maturity, age and the type of relationship you share with them. If you think it will be hard to keep your child engaged in the conversation, think about having the talk while you’re doing something together, like a long walk or a car trip.

Mother and daughter talking in the park

A good way to get the conversation going is to talk about a real life story in the media or from their school or community. Start by getting a feel for their views on the topic:

  • Do you think it was right for her to share that photo after they broke up?
  • Do you think it was right for him to post that video online of his friend having sex with a girl? What do you think might happen to him now that he’s done that?
  • What do your friends think about sending nudes? Do you agree with them?
  • Is this a problem at your school?
  • Have you ever been sent a nude? How did you feel? What did you do?
  • Has anyone asked you to send a nude?
  • What do you think might happen if a nude or sexy pic of you went viral? How do you think it might affect you?

See below for some resources, including video clips, which can help start that important conversation.

What should I talk about?

Although this kind of conversation can feel awkward and uncomfortable, it’s important to explore these topics with your child:

  • The risks—talk about what can go wrong and the legal issues. Remind them that once the image is shared, it’s almost impossible to get it back or control how it is shared. Help them understand that sexting carries the risk of committing a crime, even if they have willingly shared the image.
  • Your expectations and the rules— be clear about your expectations and agree on some rules about the type of things they can share online. Young people tend to respond better to rules that they’ve contributed to and see as being fair.
  • Personal boundaries—let them know that it’s OK to say no when someone asks for an intimate photo, even if it’s their boyfriend or girlfriend or someone they think they can trust. Respecting their bodies and personal values is important.
  • Healthy and respectful relationships—talk about what healthy relationships look like. Mutual respect, trust and consent are important. Pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend to share an intimate image is not an example of a respectful relationship.
  • Trust—help them understand the impact of sharing images of others and that they are breaking someone’s trust when they do this without their consent.
  • Strategies—talk about ways your child can deflect a request for a nude photo. Your child could respond in funny ways like sending a photo of a nude coloured eye shadow. But if things get more aggressive, encourage them to reply with a stern ‘no’.  
  • Your role—it’s important to let your child know that they can approach you if they feel pressured to share an image of themselves or if they have shared an image of someone else. Let them know that you will support them.

Here are some resources, including video clips, which can help start that important conversation.

You can also see our brochure So you got naked online?

Respectful relationships

Audio description version

Jarrod's story


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