Sexting: What parents need to know

As young people spend more and more time communicating through devices like smartphones, blossoming relationships are no longer confined to face to face conversations.

Sexting: What you need to know

What is 'sexting'?

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Natalie Smith

...so for some of them (young girls) they think sending this type of photo puts the brakes on a physical relationship.”

End Quote Natalie Smith Youth Leader

This new form of courtship brings a new set of temptations.

According to a NSPCC/ChildLine poll seen by the BBC's Newsnight programme, 6 out of 10 teenagers say they have been asked for sexual images or videos.

The sending or receiving of sexually explicit images, videos or texts is known as 'sexting'.

According to youth leader, Natalie Smith from Essex , many young girls feel pressurised into sending explicit images of themselves without understanding the consequences. She told the BBC:

"Some young women have told me that they feel pressure to have sex, so for some of them they think sending this type of photo puts the breaks on a physical relationship."

Sexting and the law

But young people may fail to understand the implications of sending a sexually explicit image.

Under British law it is legal to have sex aged 16, but it is illegal and a serious criminal offence to take, hold or share "indecent" photos of anyone aged under 18.

As a parent or caregiver it is important to speak to young people about the consequences of taking and sending explicit images.

A close up of someone texting 62% of 12-15s have a smartphone (Ofcom, October 2013)

Young people should understand that once an explicit image has been sent it is no longer in their control. The image may end up on what is known as a 'parasite website'. Such sites hold explicit images and videos from all over the internet - usually without the original sender's knowledge.

Once an explicit image is online it could tarnish a young person's reputation for years to come and potential employers could view the images, long after the individual has left school.

So what can be done?

The Internet Watch Foundation search for explicit images and videos of under 18 year-olds and remove them.

Before it gets to that stage, parents and carers can help educate young people about the risks of sexting. Here are some key points to discuss:

  • Explain to young people they should never pressurise anyone into making an explicit image.
  • Be clear about what can happen if they do send a sexually explicit image. Where the image goes next and who sees it will not be under their control.
  • Make sure they are aware it is against the law to take or hold an explicit image of someone under the age of 18.

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