Talking about sexting & nudes

Talking to your child about sexting can be hard to navigate. Here are our top tips to help get the conversation started.

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2. Follow this process

Look for books or movies that discuss themes on respectful relationships

For children at this age (unless there is a pressing reason to talk specifically about nude images), it is best to start an open dialogue with young kids about themes like healthy relationships, consent and respect early on. Be cognizant of role modelling what a respectful relationship looks like at home between yourself and your partner, and recognise and use examples to explain positive behavior expectations in your everyday life when they happen. Ask for your child's interpretation of what happened in certain instances, and break down what made that a respectful relationship moment.

Having difficult conversations isn’t easy for anyone, but there are a couple of tips that can help keep things on track:

Use questions and comments like:

  • ? What do you think the word "respect" means?
  • ?  What might respect look like? What words, feelings or actions come to mind?
  • ? How does it feel when you are respected?
  • ? What do you think disrespect might feel like?
  • ? How might someone disrespect another person in the online world?
  • ? What might be a better way to handle a situation rather than being disrespectful?
  • ? How else might you show respect to others?
  • ? Does being respectful include people's things as well as their feelings?

Describe feelings in real-life examples

Talk in "feelings" about people they know in your own household, e.g. “It makes me feel happy about myself when Dad tells me I look beautiful”, or, “When you borrowed your sister's book I felt really proud that you took extra special care of it for her.”

Be ready to address their curiosity

At this age, kids may have heard the terms nudes or sexting or could have even viewed pornography in their travels, and it is important to understand that it is normal for them to be curious about what it means. It’s important not to ignore these issues because they are awkward, and understand that by addressing them in an age-appropriate way you are helping your child navigate some of the more complex themes they will encounter when they are away from home.

You could open a conversation by saying "sending a nude picture or looking at pornography online is something adults do, but it can give you the wrong idea about sex and relationships. If you want to learn more, I can get some books for you, and we can look for some information for kids about this together online. We can always talk more about it if you have more questions."

Having difficult conversations isn’t easy for anyone, but there are a couple of tips that can help keep things on track:

Use questions and comments like:

  • ? What have you heard about nudes?
  • ? What did it make you think?
  • ? Why did it make you think that?
  • ? Why do you think people send them to each other?
  • ? What could go wrong?
  • ? What could happen then?
  • ? If you were in charge, how would you solve this problem?

Explain the importance

Explain the purpose of the conversation. It is important to you and your family that you are teaching them to develop the ability to understand and interpret situations by sorting fact from fiction.

Create a safe space for discussion

Depending on the reason you want to have this discussion (following an incident or for general interest), deciding on a designated time for the discussion with a loose timeframe to manage expectations can be helpful. By formalising these types of conversations over important concepts, teens will take things more seriously and won’t feel ambushed. If a negative incident has occurred, you need to address it quickly as a parent, not a friend, and while it is important to minimise judgement and remain curious, it is vital you convey that these incidents and behaviours are taken seriously by your family.

Having difficult conversations isn’t easy for anyone, but there are a couple of tips that can help keep things on track:

Use questions and comments like:

  • ? I know this is uncomfortable for both of us, but it's important we understand what happened. I want to hear your point of view, and I want you to know I’m on your side.
  • ? What were some of your thoughts when you were deciding what to do?
  • ? Do you know any kids that share nudes? What is their reason for doing so?
  • ? What do you think other people think about that behaviour?
  • ? How realistic do you think it is that a nude could get out?
  • ? What do you think is the most common way they get out?
  • ? How might you help a friend that this happened to?
  • ? What would kids want their parents to do in that situation?
  • ? Push through awkward moments by saying “tell me more…”

Remember to praise 

Remember to find opportunities for praise by acknowledging that the conversation may be awkward, but that you appreciate they are willing to talk to you.

Consider their need for exploring developing relationships and sexual identity

Like it or not, the sharing of intimate images is often seen by teens as a 21st century way of exploring their sexual identity and establishing depth and trust in their relationships. This is understandable in many ways, however, there are two obvious looming risks to focus on when discussing this sort of behaviour:

  1. Whether they are breaking the law; and
  2. Ways that content may be shared without their consent. 

While your teen may feel they know and trust a person they are sending images to, they simply can’t be certain that their intimate image or video won’t be forwarded. Talk to them about their long-term goals, plans and prospects and how an image like that might impact them if it surfaced. Discuss with them how relationships change and evolve over time, and ask how they would feel if a person they broke up with still had that intimate image. It’s also helpful to discuss some alternatives to nudes, or look at apps like “Send This Instead” if they need some quick-fire responses that allow them to say no without the awkwardness.

Having difficult conversations isn’t easy for anyone, but there are a couple of tips that can help keep things on track:

Use questions and comments like:

  • ? Mention a recent productive conversation you’ve had. Say “Remember when we spoke about cyberbullying? I found that really helpful. Can we try that again?"
  • ? Remind them that you probably won’t solve all issues in one conversation, but each chat is an important step.
  • ? What does a respectful relationship look like to you?
  • ? What boundaries do you have when it comes to your relationship and the online world?
  • ? Would you be worried that your relationship wouldn’t move forward if you didn’t send the picture/video?
  • ? Who raised the idea? How did you feel about it at first?
  • ? Can you explain to me why teens choose to send nudes nowadays?
  • ? Are there other teens you personally know that do this?
  • ? Have you ever heard about this type of thing going wrong?
  • ? What would you do / how would you feel if the image got out (even by accident)?
  • ? Push through awkward moments by saying “tell me more…”

Try writing it out

If the conversation isn’t progressing well, try writing to each other. It can be surprisingly helpful.