Did You Know?

Only 3% of all teen cellphone users report having sent "sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photo or video". However, 16% of all teen cellphone users say they have received a sexually suggestive photo or video of someone they know.

Lenhart, A., Madden, M., Smith, A.,Purcell K., Zickhur, K., “Teens, Kindness and Cruelty on Social Network Sites: How American teens navigate the new world of 'digital citizenship'” Pew Research Center, November, 2011.

How to talk to teens about sexting
Learn why they do it and what to say about it.

As children grow and develop, they become more interested in relationships and sex. While curiosity and exploration are natural, advancements in technology have opened up a new and potentially dangerous way for teens to explore their sexuality: sexting.

Sexting is the sharing and receiving of sexually explicit messages and nude or partially nude images via cellphone. Sexts may be sent as regular text messages or through apps, like Snapchat, Kik and WhatsApp. Teens may sext for a variety of reasons. They may be trying to establish intimacy with a boyfriend or girlfriend, impress a crush, or be funny. Others may feel pressured into sexting by boyfriends or girlfriends who may threaten to break up with them if they don't send a picture.

The risks

Teens may not believe or be able to foresee a situation in which the person they send a sext to chooses to share that image with others. However, it does happen and the consequences can be academically, socially and emotionally devastating.

Teens that sext may:


What can I do?
While sexting may not be the most comfortable topic to discuss, it’s still important. Be sure to:

  • Clarify your expectations and your family’s values when it comes to sex, relationships and cellphone usage.
  • Discuss what characterizes a healthy relationship. Explain that any person pressuring them to sext isn’t someone they should trust.
  • Explain how quickly information can spread online. Emphasize that once an image is shared, it is out of their control and can stay around forever.
  • Help teens understand the consequences they could face for sending or forwarding images.  
  • Talk to teens about the importance of not asking for or forwarding sexts. Make sure they understand that forwarding sexting images is a major violation of trust and explain the risks that it poses to the person in the picture. 

Discussion Starters

Start the conversation!
Use these discussion starters to talk about sexting.

  • Has anyone ever sent you a sext?
  • Has anyone ever asked or pressured you to sext?
  • Do you think it’s OK to forward “sexy” images? Why?
  • What could happen to you if you send or forward a naked picture?
  • What are some ways a private photo sent to one person could be seen by others?