Sexting, also known as sex texting, refers to any sending or receiving of sexual content (e.g., images, messages, or videos) on a device. Young people often send these messages using messaging apps or social media platforms where the story can “disappear,” not realizing that it is still stored somewhere or that a screen-shot can be made of what is shared. Sexting can also be seen as the sharing of pornography and indulging in lustful activities, both of which are considered offenses against chastity (CCC 2351 & 2354). In many places, it is a crime to share or receive this content if a minor is in the image, even if the message is sent and shared among minors themselves.
If your child has a device that is capable of messaging, there is a good chance they will encounter unsolicited sexual messages, either from someone they know, or through “spam” messages. Making sure that your children know what sexting is, that it is wrong, and that they can come to you if it happens to them is the first step.
Also letting them know the legal consequences of sexting. These images can be considered child pornography, which is illegal. Students have faced criminal charges for sending and sharing these images. These images do not go away.
If your child has received sexual content:
Begin by asking them to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Discuss different options on how to handle the issue and if school and/or legal authorities should be made aware of the situation. Check the resources for some ideas.
If your child is sending sexual content of themselves:
Respond with love and openness, letting your child know they have your support while being clear that this behavior is wrong. Affirm their worth and that someone asking for explicit content of them isn’t considering their full dignity. Help your child see that this action was wrong and set-up a plan to avoid this happening again. This may include removing access to devices or setting up monitoring systems on the device until trust can be restored. Also, discuss with your child ways they can let others know they won’t be sending sexual content of themselves or others in the future. Pray with and for your child, continuing to affirm your child’s worth and dignity beyond the initial conversation.
If your child is sending sexual content of others (e.g., sharing a message they received of someone):
Respond with love and openness letting your child know that you are there for them, but be clear that this behavior is wrong and serious. Help them understand why this behavior is wrong and the implications of it (i.e., morally and legally). Talk with them about respecting the dignity and worth of others. Encourage your child to make amends for the wrong they have committed and consider removing access to devices or setting up monitoring systems on the device until trust can be restored. Discuss ways they can talk about this subject with others, letting them know they won’t be sharing sexual content anymore. Pray with and for your child.
Want to learn more?
Learn more about Internet Safety
Learn more about overcoming Pornography
Learn more about Sexual Education
Learn more about overcoming Masturbation