We have decided to write a start to what is a very big conversation. We often get messages from parents that have found conversations and the exchange of images on their tweens devices that are not quite sexting, but close. This is getting younger and younger but most often starting in Grade 5 and 6.
In most cases it is very early flirting. Remember this is the way kids do it now, videos, texts etc. However, it could easily go from harmless flirting and quickly escalate so it is very important to discuss it with your child. In fact it is an excellent time to talk about consent, sending intimate images, the law and most importantly……respectful relationships.
In our experience a great place to have these conversations is in the car. When you are driving your child somewhere, one on one and safe. They can roll their eyes and try and not engage as much as they like…..but they can’t escape....... (My son was often "awww Mum" but always ended up talking).
Ask questions frame it with “What happens if” or “What would you do if ” is a good starting point.
Here are some questions that may be helpful to start:
Do you know people at school who’ve sent or received a nude/nearly nude or sent one?
Was it their idea to send the photo, or did someone convince them to?
How did you find out about it, did someone share it? Or was everyone gossiping about it?
What would you do if you received a nude from someone?
Have you learnt about what to do and the law about this at school?
Do you have any questions about things you’ve heard/learned about?
If your child has questions about sexting, try to answer them as honestly and openly as you can. It is really important to teach your kids about happy, healthy, respectful relationships as young as possible. Always encourage them to speak up about anything. Let them know they will not get in trouble, that they can have conversations with you about this topic and you are always there to help them find answers (if you do not know the answer) and to help them if they need.
Once you’ve started talking about sexting with your child, you will see it gets way easier the more you do it. The younger you start the better.
Tweens need to know that sexting or sending nudes is very risky, that images can be shared, gossiped about, even used against them in cases of sextortion. (Sextortion is a very serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them with images of a sexual nature, sexual favours, or money). Sextortion can happen quite easily to this age group. Usually when they have met a stranger online. I have reported to Police when a 10yr old told me after a school talk, that it was happening to her. Someone she met on Roblox who moved her to TikTok to follow them there so they could exchange video messages which quickly became sinister.
It’s also important to help your child understand the legal consequences of sexting.
The best way to protect a tween from the risks of sexting is to talk about respectful relationships and trust.
Explain that sexting is a sexual activity.
All sexual acts – including sexting – need to be consensual. At Safe on Social we go one step further and speak about “Enthusiastic Consent” with teens (age appropriate of course).
Enthusiastic consent is about ensuring that all parties to sexual acts including sexting are enthusiastically consenting to everything that happens. This means you would be participating in sexual acts because you're excited about it, not because you feel pressured into it.
Breaching consent by sharing a sext isn’t respectful or ok in any way.
Sharing other people’s sexts or sending nudes to someone who hasn’t asked for one is not ok.
They have a right to say ‘no’ and it’s never OK for someone to pressure them into doing anything sexual, including sending sexual photos.
It’s also a good idea for teens to practise saying no by just saying, ‘No, I don’t send nudes’. This needs to be normalised.
Encourage them to never ever be afraid to talk to you about any of this or appoint a “cool aunty or uncle” that they can have these conversations with.
Get to know other parents at your child's school, so that if you need to, you can discuss without fear if things happen between your tweens.
Know where to go when things go wrong. You can go straight to your local police for assistance.
For more information about laws in Australia and New Zealand click here: https://www.safeonsocial.com/single-post/young-people-online-pornography-and-the-law