Parents Of Sexting Teens, Here’s 3 Things You Need To Be Aware Of

A huge number of the UK public sent their first sexual image when they were under 18.

With the government cracking down on schools in England to stop the use of mobile phones, parents are also being encouraged to understand online dangers within their own home.

New research by ESET has revealed widespread misunderstandings of the age laws when it comes to the sharing of sexual content online. The report also uncovers the psychological impact on under-18s from having their photos misused.

The research found that despite the legal age for sending or sharing sexual images being above 18, a huge 39% of the UK public surveyed sent their first sexual image when they were under 18.

Emma Ferguson-Law, Senior Solicitor in the Abuse Claims Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp says there are three things parents should be aware of if their teens are sexting.

Educate young people

Emma says she understands the intention behind the recent guidance intended to stop the use of mobile phones during the school day, but she feels it’s missing the point.

She said: “In this day and age, the vast majority of teenagers live their lives through their smartphones. The focus shouldn’t be on bans, but on educating these young people and their parents on the issues and risks of being online, and how to do it safely.”

Have open conversations

“I support people who have been abused online and it is worrying how normalised things like sexting are becoming amongst young people.

“The new survey from ESET shows that 39% of the UK public admitted to sharing explicit content for the first time while they were underage. And what might appear relatively harmless could quickly become a much bigger problem if any explicit photos are shared or the person the teen is chatting to is an adult.

“In some instances, sexting can also be the precursor to more serious physical abuse, but we shouldn’t forget that sexting between an child and an adult is child abuse in itself.”

Although it’s a potentially awkward topic to approach, it’s essential parents have open conversations with their children about not just sexting and abuse, but the dangers of living a life online full stop, according to Emma.

Explaining how strangers can easily pose as other people online, and the long-term impacts of sharing nude photos for example, can help give context to conversations which your teenager might just see as harmless fun.

“Explaining to your child that once that picture is sent, they lose all control of it and therefore who sees their body is also a very important message,” she added.

Know the legal repercussions

As a lawyer, Emma says that from a legal perspective, it is illegal for a child to make and distribute naked images of themselves.

“If they are requested to do this by an adult, this is child abuse. It is also child abuse for an adult to encourage a child to participate in any sexualised messaging, even if nude images are not involved.”

All in all, sexting can have a serious impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, particularly if images are made publicly available.

Emma says: “We work with victims and survivors of abuse to ensure they have access to justice and can claim compensation from their abusers to help support them get back on track.”