Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or pictures between mobile phones or other devices e.g. via webcam or games console.

It has of course been possible to send sexually explicit messages since phones could first send text messages back in 1996. But advancements in mobile phone technology means that now it is possible to send high quality pictures with the text message.

 The Danger

Not only do modern phones have high quality cameras, they also have access to the Internet and direct access to social network sites, photo and video sharing apps as well as instant messaging services. Often people sending “sexts” often see this as harmless fun or a laugh. They do not consider that the person they are sending the explicit text or pictures to could easily share it with hundreds of people with just a few clicks.

Research in 2012 found that 88% of explicit images posted on social networking sites were stolen and used on other websites, mainly adult sites. 25% of people forwarded images or texts sent to them to other people.

The photos and texts could also be used for blackmail or for cyberbullying. This in turn can cause mental stability issues and emotional distress.

There is of course also the legal issue. Laws regarding indecent images of children were never written with “sexting” in mind, but the sending and receiving of explicit images of a minor is a criminal offense under those laws. It can also be illegal to send sexual explicit images or texts to a non-consenting person and can be classified as harassment.

One of the best videos produced that shows the danger of sharing explicit images with others for children is this one from the NSPCC.



 Signs To Look Out For

It can be difficult to spot the direct signs of someone sexting without checking their phone or device for images or texts. They will often be very protective of their phone, making sure they never leave it laying around or moving away or trying to hide the screen when they are using it.

Watch for children dressing provocatively indoors. They may use mirrors to take photos of themselves, so watch for them taking their phones into bedrooms or bathrooms and shutting or locking doors.

Watch for signs of emotional turmoil (See list in What is E-Safety.)

Talk to your child about the dangers and set appropriate and agreed boundaries about safe and responsible usage.  Discuss the possible consequences of sending images/videos and how people can share them without your knowledge or consent. 

If possible check your child's phones for possible signs. They might use some of the following possible secret sexting codes:

143 - I love you ASL - Age / sex / location
CD9 / Code 9 - Parents are around F2F or FTF - Face to face
FWB - Friends with benefits FYEO - For your eyes only
GYPO - Get your pants off ILY / ILU - I love you
IRL - In real life IWSN - I want sex now
IYKWIM - If you know what I mean J4F - Just for fun
KFY - Kiss for you KPC - Keeping parents clueless
KTOL - Kiss on the lips LMIRL - Let's meet in real life
MIRL - Meet in real life MOS - Mum over shoulder
NAGI - Not a good idea NIFOC - Nude in front of computer
 P999 / P911 - Parent alert PAW - Parents are watching
PCM - Please call me PIR - Parents in room
PLS / PLZ - Please POS - Parents over shoulder
RU/18 - Are you over 18? SOS - Someone over shoulder
SWAK - Sealed with a kiss TDTM - Talk dirty to me
WYCM - Will you call me WYRN - What's your real name

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