Sending nudes and sexting

It is important to talk with your children about the possible consequences of sending or sharing intimate images.

What are the risks?

Sharing intimate images may seem like a bit of fun or innocent flirting for young people, particularly those in a relationship. But things can go wrong and it is important your child understands this.

  • They lose control of the image — once an image is shared, it can be copied and saved by others, shared with people the sender does not know and posted on social media and public websites.
  • Things can go wrong even in a trusted relationship — a friend or partner may, on impulse and without thinking, share an image more broadly than the sender intended.
  • Images may not always be sent willingly — young people may be forced or pressured into sending explicit images or videos.
  • The consequences can be serious — for young people it could result in humiliation, bullying, teasing, harassment, damage to their reputation, and criminal charges or penalties.

The term ‘sexting’ is not often used by  young people or in popular culture. Young people are more likely to refer to ‘nudes’.

How can I minimise the risks to my child?

  • Talk early, talk often — have an age-appropriate chat with them about sending nudes. Consider asking questions using real-life examples like, ‘Do you think it was right for him (or her) to share that photo after they broke up?’
  • Promote self-confidence and that it is OK to say ‘no‘ — let them know that they don’t have to give in to peer pressure or send intimate images just because others do.
  • Teach them about consent and respectful relationships — help them understand the impact of sharing intimate images of others and that they are breaking someone’s trust when they do this.
  • Talk about the risks — what can go wrong and the legal issues. Remind them that once an image is shared, it is almost impossible to get it back or control how it is shared.

What can I do when things go wrong?

  • Stay calm and open — reassure them that they are not alone and you will work through this together.
  • Listen, and act fast — there can be legal issues when intimate images of children are shared. You can report image-based abuse to the police. They can take action against the person who shared it. 
  • Get help and support — look after your child’s wellbeing and encourage them to speak with a professional counselling or support service.

This material has been adapted with permission from the Australian Government eSafety Commissioner. Permission to adapt content does not constitute endorsement of material by the eSafety Commissioner.