What is sexting and what can I do if
my child posts offensive images?

Sexting is the words ‘sex’ and ‘texting’ mixed together. It is when sexual, rude, naked or inappropriate photos or videos are shared on mobiles phones or online. These photos or videos usually involve one person sending images of their private parts or themselves doing rude actions.

It is against the law to send, receive or look at a ‘sext’ when any of the people involved are under the age of 18.

Here are some ways to help prevent your child from engaging in sexting:
• Encourage them to think before they post. Ask prompting questions such as ‘Who might be able to see these photos?’, ‘Will this photo offend anyone?’ and ‘What are you trying to achieve by sending these photos?’
• 
Tell them how hard it is to remove an image from the internet once it’s been posted, and acknowledge that once it’s online, strangers can use the image in whatever situation they like.
• 
Teach your child that taking, having or sending sexually explicit photos of underage people – including of themselves – is illegal, and that once the police take over the case, there’s not much you can do to help them. Prevention is better than cure.
• 
In a non-threatening way, learn more about what they do and who they speak to online.
• 
Let them know that the lines of communication are open if they would like to speak with you about other issues that may be pushing them to send offensive or explicit images.
 

Four easy ways to keep young people safe online

1. Make their account private
• 
Google how to use the privacy settings on the social-media site they’re using – it will give you instructions as to how you control who sees what your child does.
• 
Check and update their privacy settings regularly – get into the habit of checking them on the first of every month, for example, to make sure they haven’t changed back to the original settings.

2. Teach them to keep personal information private
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The more information your child posts, the easier it is for a someone to find them or steal their identity.
• 
Encourage them to check their photos and videos for any personal information before posting them.

3. Have them change their password – make it long and strong
• 
A strong password has a mixture of capital and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols.
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Having them change their password regularly (once a month should suffice) is a good idea.
• 
Emphasise the importance of keeping their password to themselves.

4. Teach stranger danger
• 
Your child should only become friends with people they actually know in real life – tell them to never accept friend requests or allow people to follow them if they have never met them personally.
• If somebody they have never met wants to be their friend or follow them online, let your child know that they can block them, report them, ignore them and tell you or another adult about it.
• If they receive a friend request from someone who says they are a friend of a friend, tell your child not to rely on their profile as proof of a relationship. Instead, they should confirm that their friend actually knows them before even considering accepting the request.

Need some more guidance? Download our Internet Agreement Form, which can be tailored to your household.

Australia's sexting laws

Young people under the age of 18 are considered a child/young person – and it is illegal to look at naked, indecent or inappropriate photos or videos of a child or young person.

If someone is found guilty of sexting, they may be placed on the sex offender register, which means the police will always watch them and know their personal information (where they live, their phone number, where they work).

If your child has sent a sext to someone, they could ask the person to delete it. However, once it is sent, they no longer have control over what happens to it, so there really isn’t anything they can do to prevent it from being shared with others.

Teach them to think before they send – it could have implications in the future!
 

How to use privacy settings

Many social networks allow people to ‘check in’ each time they tweet or post an update. This can mean that strangers can see where your child, especially if their profile isn’t private.

To turn off location settings on Twitter, click on your child’s profile picture at the top right-hand side, scroll down to ‘Settings and privacy’, then to ‘Privacy and safety’ on the left-hand side, then untick the checkbox that says ‘Tweet with a location’. You can also press the button that says ‘Delete location information’, to clear information about where they’ve been in the past. You can also turn the location off on their actual mobile phone.