It’s easy to think that this sort of stuff doesn’t happen to ‘normal’ kids – yes it does. As parents the best thing you can do is talk to your children about sexting – and yes we know it can be uncomfortable and hard to do.
Talk to them about the danger of sharing. Talk about cases that are in the media, or if you heard about a colleagues at works child or whatever. Try and be non-judgemental too… understand why people may want to do it too… sensible people get caught out too. Talk to them about their friends and if people share pictures at school…
Equally talk to them about respecting others, their privacy, their boundaries and right to say no. Teach them to show empathy… it may one day be your child that has been pestering others for images or have shown their personal messages to mates…
Show them this… our guide to safer sexting…
However, also make it clear to your child that they can talk to you and you would rather support them than get angry . Reassure them that you are on their side (and here’s the really difficult part – if they do – keep your promise… stay calm and don’t get angry…!)
If your child tells you that an image of them has been shared remember how brave they must have been to talk to you in the first place… reassure them that you will help and support them.
First things first – find out the facts and how far things have gone. There is a huge difference between a few people at school seeing a photo and something being put on an open forum on the internet.
If the image was sent directly to someone’s mobile, encourage your child to have a conversation with them and ask them to delete it. If this doesn’t work or it has already gone past this stage then it would be worth you having a conversation with their parents. Again, don’t try to apportion blame – it won’t help anyone. Think about how you would feel if you were on the other side.
If this is unmanageable or doesn’t work then contact your child’s school or the Police. Some schools are absolutely fantastic when it comes to dealing with incidents like this and are supportive and understanding. Some are not – so be aware.
In our experience the cases that work out the best are the ones where everyone approaches the situation calmly and doesn’t try to blame anyone.
Now if the images have been posted posting directly to a social network this can sometimes make it harder to regain control. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram are designed to make publishing and sharing quick. The software makes those connections for you and that’s the trouble. It’s hard to know where the image has gone and who has got it. It can very quickly leave your social circle and spread to others.
Most social network sites have clear conditions about posting illegal or explicit content – contact them directly via their help pages and report the content. They have a duty of care to remove the offensive posts – remember an image of an sexual image of a young person under 18 is a criminal offence.
Contact CEOP – the Child Exploitation Online Protection centre. It was set up by the Government in 2006 to help protect children online across the UK from online predators. As well as helping UK police forces to bring these people to justice, CEOP can help provide advice to you and your child when something like this happens.
It may be your worst nightmare thinking of talking to your child about sexting or sharing intimate pictures, and yes, they may run away at the first mention of it – but this is something they need to understand and know about;