A Parent's Guide to Apps with Sexting Risk

Sexting risk
  1. Talking to Your Kids About Sexting Risk in Mobile Apps
    • Sexting—the use of online and/or mobile devices to send sexually explicit messages and/or images—is a growing problem among teens and tweens. Some might think that flirtatious texts, messages and images are harmless, but there’s a fine line between harmless flirtation and suggestive images and content that go too far.
    • It’s one thing for your fourteen-year-old to send a “kiss” emoji to the boy she likes – it’s something entirely different if someone is pressuring her to send pictures of her body partially or completely unclothed. Unfortunately, as different as these two scenarios might seem, there’s actually a very thin line between the two, and things can go too far entirely too fast.
  2. Identifying Sexting Risk
    • So how do you monitor your kids’ risk of sexting when they use mobile apps? First of all, take a look at the mechanics and features of the app your child is using. Does it allow users to enter private chat rooms? Is private messaging between friends allowed? Can strangers interact on a private, one-on-one basis?
    • All of these options provide the opportunity for sexting, but the last of them is most definitely the highest sexting risk. If, for example, your child is using a social app with friends from school that allows them to send each other private messages, then there’s a somewhat elevated risk of sexting. However, with this kind of app, your child will be interacting with other kids their age that they know. The risk is there, but it’s probably pretty minimal.
    • If, on the other hand, your child is interacting with strangers on an app that allows one-on-one messaging, the risk may be considerably higher. Not only is there opportunity – the ability to hold private chats that no one else can see – but the person your child is chatting with could be anyone. This kind of app provides predators with the opportunity to contact teens and kids. With enough interaction, they may be able to pressure your child into sending them inappropriate pictures or videos or giving them your address and phone number.
    • Be aware of your child’s use of mobile apps like these, especially those that allow private multimedia messaging. Sending and receiving pictures of a minor falls under laws pertaining to child pornography, and your child may be subject to humiliation or even molestation if what they think is innocent flirtation goes too far. The easiest way to check in an app has sexting risk, is to look it up in our free app directory. We have identified over 200,000 apps of concern for various reasons, some of which are for sexting risk reasons. No parent can know all the apps out there. With our directory, now you don't have to.
  3. How to Talk to Your Kids about Sexting
    • Now, no one ever looks forward to having “the talk” with their kids, and talking about sexting can be just as awkward and embarrassing for both you and your kids as the initial birds-and-bees talk. So what do you do?
    • First of all, it’s a good idea to set a precedent for monitoring your child’s online and mobile activity. You should have access to their phone, tablet or laptop, especially if they are younger and may be more susceptible to persuasion and peer pressure. If this is the case, your child won’t be surprised that you know about the new app they’ve downloaded or they won’t be able to download it at all without first getting permission from you.
    • If your child is asking to download an app that you think has a high risk of sexting, then the two of you will need to talk about this. Start by asking your child whom they’ll be talking with on the app and what they’ll be talking about. Then ask them what other topics might come up and how they’ll handle it if someone tries to bring up inappropriate subjects or pressure them to give out their personal information.
    • If you suspect that your child is already engaging in sexting, you can open the conversation gently by saying something like, “I saw something on Facebook [or whatever social media platforms you follow your child on] that has me a little bit worried, and I thought we might need to talk…”
    • If you haven’t seen evidence of sexting yet but you are concerned that it might be going on, you can also bring up an article you saw online about the subject and its dangers. The important thing here is to avoid accusing your child of doing something wrong. Keep the conversation open and gentle, and let your child know that you are there for them if something inappropriate happens on an app they’re using. Then, after you talk with them, you can help your child shut down any sexting issues or increase your monitoring of their mobile app use if necessary.
    • To learn more about the dangers of sexting and sexting risk on the apps your kids are using, visit our app directory. Look up the apps your kids are using and find out if they have high or low sexting risk, what ages are appropriate, and which apps you might want to restrict your child from using.