What is sexting? Advice and help for parents

We examine sexting, an online issue that affects many children and young people who use mobile phones.

Sexting, like Cyberbullying is a modern issue that affects children (and adults) who use modern technology, such as mobile phones.

Sexting is when sexually explicit messages are sent via email, instant message or text. Sexting can be an explicit text message, video or photograph. It can seem fairly harmless, but your child might not be aware of the consequences. Check out the video below created by e-safety organisation Internet Matters to discover more:

[Read more: A parents guide to Snapchat]


Sexting is on the rise: the National Crime Agency revealed child protection officers are investigating one case of sexting each day.

What is wrong with sexting?

  • It’s illegal to create an indecent image of someone under the age of 18. It’s also illegal to distribute such images. So even if a child sends a photograph of themselves to a willing recipient, they are in danger of being prosecuted. 
  • Once an explicit image or video has been sent online, it can easily be shared. Even if your child sends a photograph to someone they know, they may forward it on to someone else, who may share it further.
  • If images are shared it can cause emotional distress – particularly if it’s shared around school and a child has to face his or her peers.
  • It could also damage your child’s reputation and may affect their chances of getting a job in the future.
  • Your child could also be at risk from blackmail by the perpetrator.

What do I do if my child is sexting?

Find out exactly who the image was sent to and why it was sent – was it a joke or malicious?

If a photo was shared on social media or a forum, contact the website to remove it. Facebook has a Report blackmail form as does Instagram.

If you suspect the photograph was shared with an adult, report it to the National Crime Agency (CEOP).

If an image or video of your child is being shared around school, speak to the teachers. Your child might not like it, but the school should be able to help stop it being shared further and will have a process in place to help.

Finally, if your child is being cyberbullied or facing issues over sexting, it’s important to stay calm. You may be angry, but your child is probably scared and confused, so reassure them you’ll help them get through it.

For further information about sexting and other online safety concerns visit Internet Matters' website - an online safety organisation offering a wealth of free, practical advice to parents and carers to help keep children safe.‚Äč

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