what to do if it happens to you -parents (and other adults)
1. Create safe spaces
Your child may be reluctant to tell you that they engaged in the sending and/or sharing of nudes for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they do not want to get in trouble, are ashamed of having produced nudes of themselves or are ashamed that they shared nude pictures of someone else. They may be afraid of the reaction of their peers because they involved an adult. Creating a safe space for them to talk about these things is critical in helping them navigate through the challenges they will face. Therefore, it is important that you be supportive and not focus on your own feelings, which may include anger, doubt, mistrust and failure.
2. Remove or save the image depending on the circumstances
In a situation where there may be criminal charges, the image will be needed for evidence. In this circumstance share the image with the police only before doing any deleting.
In situation where there are no criminal charges the image can be deleted as a priority. You can find a list of instructions on how to remove photos/videos from website, social media and phones here: www.needhelpnow.ca/app/en/removing_pictures-facebook
3. Ask your child questions in a non-judgmental manner
Its important to find out what was sent, to whom, and where the image was shared. This should be done without passing blame or shame them in order to help them restore their dignity in a positive manner.
4. Understand your own feelings
Feeling of anger and fear are two very close emotions. As a parent, when you feel fear for your child, you may react angrily. Think about how you would react if your child ran across a busy. You would likely grab them by the hand and show anger, but your feeling is fear for their safety. It’s the same with the sending and sharing of nudes. Although you may feel angry towards them, in reality the emotion is fear for the safety of your child. You may need your own personal support to navigate your emotions. Reach out to your friends, family support worker, counsellor or doctor.
5. Contact the school
Explore options with your child’s school to see what steps can be taken to communicate with the families of the youth involved in the sharing of nudes. If the sexting incident involves threats, blackmail, or intimidation, you can report it to the police.
6. Outline the consequences
Mistakes happen and with mistakes come consequences as well as great learning opportunities. Disciplining your child should be done within an appropriate timeframe, with rational and fair consequences, and without anger. Talk to them about their errors in judgment and how these can negatively affect their life. Some possible consequences may include restricting cell phone/internet use, suspending social media accounts, or increasing your supervision of their online/cellphone activity.
7. Create a Safety Plan / Plan of Care
Your child may feel violated, unsafe, and insecure after a sexting incident occurs. To help empower them and maintain a level of safety, try creating a safety plan together. A safety plan will help them know who to turn to when they need to talk, what to do if the situation arises again, or what to do if they find themselves in danger. The safety plan should list positive role models and trustworthy adults that they can turn to in order to help keep themselves safe and protected against predators. Seek professional help if appropriate.
Instruct youth not to retaliate against those who shared their image. Send the message that two wrongs do not make a right. This will help teach accountability, responsibility, and ownership which can help the learning and healing process.