Sexting is a portmanteau of the words "sex" and "texting". It describes the sending and receiving of self-produced, revealing recordings via computer or smartphone. Among young people, the terms "pics" or "nudes" are also in common use.

The phenomenon of "sexting" has had a negative image in recent years due to its judgmental portrayal. In addition, it was mainly the failed cases that made headlines. It was mainly the risks and side effects of sexting that were emphasized (e.g. unauthorized sharing of the recordings, bullying and social exclusion). Educating about the risks is important, but in fact sexting can also be without consequences and does not have to be evaluated negatively per se. It can be part of modern intimate communication if the participants are old enough, know each other well enough, behave fairly and respectfully, and observe some important aspects.

Why do teens use sexting?

Young people now prefer to communicate with each other online, get to know each other, exchange ideas, maintain friendships and love relationships. Experiences with relationships and sexuality are also made online. So it happens that people also share intimacy and intimate self-made recordings. Sexting can be interpreted as a new form of intimate communication that takes place consensually between people. By no means everyone tries it out, but when they do, sexting is used....

  • for self-expression: How do I want to be, can I also be "sexy"? How does that come across to others?
  • as proof of love or to maintain a relationship: sexting recordings are sent as a sexy gift to the partner, for example, or to the crush as proof of trust.
  • for mutual sexual arousal.
  • for getting to know each other, flirting.
  • as a response to a received sexy picture. So you also send a sexting picture of yourself because someone else has sent a picture before.

Talking to young people about sexting

Sometimes it's very hard to get into a conversation about a topic like "sexting." Here's some food for thought on how to address the issue.

Before you talk about "the teens," talk to them. Instead of judging them for their actions, seek to talk with young people. There are very different attitudes about how to deal with sexting, and you should reflect on them. The reasons for sexting are varied and not every young person has long wanted to do it. It helps most for a trusting relationship if you signal that you approach the topic neutrally and openly.

Also talk to young people about the prevailing media role models and the different gender role expectations. Encourage them to question these and think about what the recordings convey. Also reflect on your own perceptions about media role models and be sensitive to how difficult it can be for young people to assert themselves against the existing "behavioral templates."

Make it clear that people should never take pictures of themselves if they feel uncomfortable doing so. Saying no is the only right thing to do then. The pressure to go along can be enormous. Many young people have a good sense of what they want and don't want, and they also know the rules about taking pictures. Nevertheless, these rules can quickly be thrown overboard if, for example, you're in love or bow to peer pressure. Therefore, encourage young people to trust their gut instincts.

Make it clear that they will never forward revealing recordings of others. That is unfair and punishable by law. Young people actually know the most important rules, such as the "right to one's own image," but time and again these boundaries are overstepped.

Take a clear stand when people are condemned for making intimate recordings. Make it clear that the injustice is in the forwarding of the recordings and not in the creation of a revealing image. Encourage young people to stand up for affected people.

What to do when sexting goes wrong?

When sexting goes wrong, for example when recordings are distributed without being asked, those affected often feel helpless and exposed. In the following, we show possible courses of action.

Ask about the facts of the case and the person's experience. Avoid blame and condemnation. Encourage the young person in his or her decision to seek help and confide in someone with this intimate secret. This requires a lot of overcoming and courage - after all, many young people are aware of the common attitude that it is the victim's own fault, which does not make it any easier to tell someone about it.

If a child has sent a sexy picture of himself and the shots have fallen into the wrong hands, do not blame! It already feels betrayed, at the mercy of others' ridicule and vulnerable. It is important that you make your child feel safe and understood with you. Make it clear to yourself and others that the moment of injustice lies in the unauthorized forwarding.

Do not be afraid to ask about thoughts or actions that are dangerous to oneself or others. In this way, you can protect the mental and physical health of the person concerned and third parties. Together with the person concerned, consider how the dangerous situation can be de-escalated and which persons must be entrusted with this task.

Only if action is taken can the process be stopped. And trust that you can get help with the help of a good network.

Report the recordings to the provider of the service through which the material was sent or published. Check whether you need to notify the police! Arrange together for the removal of the recordings. With established services, such as Facebook or YouTube, this is relatively easy, as there are special reporting functions. With services like Snapchat or WhatsApp, it is still difficult to contact the provider. Nevertheless, an attempt should be made to ask for the deletion of the image or video in question. After all, if you have informed the provider about the infringement, you can also claim injunctive relief against him. The contact to the provider is indicated in the imprint. If a criminal offense has been committed - for example, if child or youth pornography has been disseminated - the police must be called in.

It can happen that victims suddenly refuse to be mediated or refuse help. The reason for this may be that those affected become afraid at the thought of having to involve other people (for example, the police). In this case, you should seek dialogue, assure them of your support and encourage them.

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