Sexting Convo Starters

Written by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) / Netsmartz

Many preteens and teens believe that anything they want to do with their bodies and their phones is their business. They enjoy the privacy and freedom that cell phones give them from their caregivers, but what happens when they use their cell phones to explore their sexuality?

Sex + Texting = Sexting (verb), Sex +Text = Sext (noun).

Conversation Starters

Ask questions to make it clear you’re comfortable with what you are discussing. An easy-going and understanding attitude can go a long way in facilitating a safe environment where young people feel they are able to open up about uncomfortable topics.

Discuss what characterizes a healthy relationship. The differences in healthy vs. unhealthy relationships is something that is important for every caregiver to communicate with their youth and this can have lasting positive effects.

Many preteens and teens don’t realize how public cell phone text and imaging messages can be, so reinforcing this concept is vital. Emphasize the importance of not forwarding sexts they receive. Being able to respect others’ privacy and feelings puts them on a path of good digital citizenship.

  • “Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to sext? Have you ever received a sexy picture from someone?”
  • “Any person pressuring you to sext isn’t someone you should trust. Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go, but a sexual image of you can stay around forever.”
  • “Once a photo is sent, it’s out of your control.”
  • “You do not have the right to decide who should see someone else’s body. Forwarding images is a major violation of trust and exposes the person in the picture to potential ridicule. Imagine how you would feel if someone betrayed your trust by sharing a nude photo of you.”
If Your Young Person’s Image is Already Out There

Advise them to document any and all harassment. When reporting cases of sextortion, it’s invaluable to have evidence of the harassment. That means making sure children know how to save any messages, images, or files the extorter sends through a website, app, or text message.

Review steps for reporting the extortion. Beyond documenting the harassment, victims should block the extorter’s accounts and report the threats directly to the website or app where the harassment is happening. A report should also be made to local law enforcement and NCMEC’s CyberTipline.

Help minors remove their content from the internet. Visit get step-by-step directions about contacting sites and apps like Google and Snapchat about flagging and removing sexually explicit content featuring minors.

Be part of a strong support system. Many victims of sextortion feel a sense of guilt or shame, especially when they may have sent the initial sext willingly. Try to be empathetic to the situation and focus on problem-solving for the present and future rather than dwelling on the past mistake.