Kids Helpline is seeing increasing interest from young people and adults seeking information on sexting. Sexting is sending provocative or sexual photos, images, messages or videos using a mobile phone or posting online.
Sexting is an example of how new communication technologies are impacting on the way young people share information and interact with others. Sometimes a ‘sexy’ photo sent privately can end up being shared in a very public arena. Many young people don’t realise that taking, sending or receiving images of a person under the age of 18 may be illegal, and that once something is sent it can’t be retrieved.
Why do young people participate?
Young people often rely heavily on their mobile phones, social media networks and other technologies to keep connected. It is quick and easy to send a photo and forward a message but often little thought is given to the consequences.
What are the consequences?
We know that the impacts of sexting can be social, emotional, legal and physical and they can be short and long-term. Some of these impacts include anxiety and anger; feelings of shame or guilt and fear of conflict or punishment. In some cases, young people have faced extortion and blackmail, suicidal ideation or deliberate self-injury.
Young people don’t always focus on the long-term impacts of sexting, such as on possible future employment or relationships. It’s a complex issue with many grey areas but it is one parents should be aware of.
We don’t know how many young people are sexting in Australia, but we do know Kids Helpline is seeing increasing numbers of young people and adults seeking information on issues related to sexting. Since our sexting hot topic for teens was published on our website in 2009, it has been viewed more than 30,000 times.
Who can help?
Kids Helpline counsellors are available 24/7 to help children and young people about any concern or issue. If you believe a young person may be sexting and are looking for a confidential chat about getting help, ask them to call us on 1800 55 1800 or visit kidshelp.com.au to use email or web counselling.
Cybersmart partners with Kids Helpline to provide support to young people who are worried about something that has happened online. As well as sexting this includes bullying, concerns about what is posted about them online, and managing the amount of time they spend online.