Let’s talk about sex…ting

Ask any parent what their top five fears about their kid having a cellphone is, and someone’s bound to say “sexting”. Heck, even I, as the mom of a mobile-wielding tween live in fear of this, and she has many different types of monitoring happening (including me having unfettered access to her phone).  I could bore you with statistics and the like, but you’re probably just going to close this tab in fear if I do. So, I won’t.

But what do you do should you discover that your teen’s been sexting, or receiving inappropriate messages? Here’s a quick, four step guide:

Act on it
The transmission of child pornography is a criminal offence. The FPB summed it up well on their site by saying this:

In terms of South African law, “child pornography” is any picture, regardless of how it was created, or any description, of a real or imaginary person who is under the age of 18 years, or is represented as being under the age of 18 years:

  • engaged or involved in any form of sexual activity;
  • participating in or assisting another person to participate in any form of sexual activity or,
  • any picture which shows, or any writing which describes, the body or any part of the body of a real or imaginary person under the age of 18 in circumstances that amount to sexual exploitation or in a manner that makes it capable of being used for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

My point? There’s no such thing as a “harmless nudie” so don’t ignore this and hope it’ll go away on its own. It won’t, so your first step is to act on it. If your child is being harassed in any way, take the appropriate action (and yes, that can mean opening a criminal case or getting a school involved, if required).


Take a step back and disconnect
Your second step is probably not going to make me, or you, very popular. That’s okay – parenting is not a popularity contest. You’re going to remove the device from your child’s possession. Do this for as long as you deem necessary, but do it for two reasons – one, to protect your child and enable them to realise that there are consequences to this behaviour and two, to take some time and create a family action plan for dealing with this. What that action plan is, depends entirely on the circumstances surrounding your sexting discovery. Perhaps you found out because something went very wrong, and your kid is now being harassed, or you just happened to discover a nudie in their photo gallery. Maybe you’d like to change your child’s device to a simple handset, and remove them from all online platforms until they’re older – that’s your choice.

Your third step is going to circle back on education. At some point, your texting teen will have a phone again, whether you give it back to them or later on in life. It’s time to get boring and re-teach them the guidelines around online messaging, and highlight the possible dangers therein. Have an open conversation, listen to them and also remind them of how images or messages transmitted online can come back to bite them later on, so it’s important to remember good guidelines for anything anyone transmits.

Get back in touch
Your last step is simple – get back in touch with your kid’s online life. Check out these five ways to keep tabs on things and get involved. Your children are on a digital journey, and the best way they’ll learn is from you.

I'd love to chat to you some more.


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