Inappropriate Exchanges

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In this article we discuss inappropriate exchanges amongst young people, and share some tools to help you navigate this topic with your child.

Inappropriate Exchanges

As a parent, it’s natural to feel uneasy about your child engaging in inappropriate exchanges. However, all children and young people will explore and role-play around gender and sexuality. It’s a normal part of growing up and self-discovery. Think back to when you were a child. How did you explore your own gender and sexuality?

Of course, this exploration comes with its own risks. That is why it’s important to explain to your child what these risks are. We don’t want to encourage inappropriate exchanges, instead, we want to prompt regular conversations between you and your child that can foster mutual understanding and contribute to their safety.

What Are Inappropriate Exchanges?

Inappropriate Exchanges or Sexting = Sex + Texting

Inappropriate exchanges or sexting is where people exchange messages, images, or videos of a sexual nature through digital platforms. It is a form of communication that can occur between friends, partners, and people they have met online. It refers explicitly to self-generated content and usually involves sexually explicit messages consisting of naked pictures, underwear pictures, and erotic messages.


Why do Young People Engage in Inappropriate Exchanges?

It’s “normal”

They think it’s normal, as “everyone else is doing it.” It is estimated that 15% of teens have engaged in inappropriate exchanges and 25% have received inappropriate content.

Part of a romantic relationship

They have a girlfriend/boyfriend and engage in inappropriate exchanges to enhance their relationship. They want to show the receiver how much they like them. Sending and receiving flirty and sexual messages can provide instant validation and affirmation.

Boost self-esteem

They want to impress, get attention, and receive compliments. Sometimes inappropriate exchanges are used as a way to prove maturity.


Young people tend to be naturally curious about sex. It might be also easier for them to explore their sexuality online rather than face-to-face.

Pressure and blackmailing

Peers, partners, or groomers might be pressuring a young person to engage in inappropriate exchanges. This is not only relevant for sending content, but also for receiving them. Research has shown that girls are more likely to feel pressured to take explicit images of themselves, while boys might be peer pressured into obtaining nudes from girls.


What Are the Risks?

Leaked content

Intimate content is usually sent to trusted people. But under some circumstances the receiver might show the sexts to friends, share it on social media, or even upload images to adult sites. When intimate pictures become public, it can have severe emotional and reputational consequences for a young person.

Pressure and blackmailing

Once the receiver receives a sext, they might expect more, making the other person feel guilty if they want to stop. The person who gets a hold of the images might also blackmail the sender, making threats to leak the content if their conditions are not fulfilled.

Legal charges

Taking, possessing, and sharing explicit images of an underage person is illegal. Even if the child gives their consent. Even if the receiver is a child themselves.

How to Talk to Your Child About it?

Every child is different, so the approach to talk to your child about inappropriate exchanges should be adapted to your child’s character and maturity. If you have weekly one-on-one chats with your child, and regularly talk to them about their online world, it will be easier for you to approach and discuss a rather awkward topic such as this one.

As part of this conversation:

  • Find out what your child already knows about these type of exchanges
  • Explain what inappropriate exchanges are, if necessary.
  • Discuss what is and isn't ok to send to friends, or to a significant other.
  • Outline the dangers of engaging in inappropriate exchanges.
  • Empower your child to respect their own and other’s boundaries.
  • Make it clear that they can speak to you if anything happens.


Dealing with Various Scenarios

A Safeguarding Assistant

The SafeToNet Mobile App is there to support your child navigate the difficult interactions that might arise when exploring the online world. Its Intelligent Keyboard acts as a real-time safeguarding assistant that helps educate your child to continue growing as a safer and kinder digital citizen.

Help - My Child Has Sent an Inappropriate Image!

  1. Contain your anger and distress: You might feel upset, confused, or disappointed if you find out that your child has been engaging in indecent exchanges. However, your child will be observing your reactions and might feel anxious. Listen to your child and give yourself time to process what happened and how you feel about it.

  2. Offer support: Remind your child that they aren’t alone and assure them that you will do everything to help. Refrain from criticism and aggression. Avoid asking “why” questions, as these are likely to make your child feel uneasy and reluctant to talk to you about it.

  3. Assess the situation: Find out who they sent the images to or whom they received it from. Did they do it voluntarily or did they feel pressured? The content may not have gone viral, but it’s still important to remove it.

  4. Ask for deletion: Your child should delete the inappropriate image from their phone, and request the receiver to delete it as well.

What To Do If the Inappropriate Content Was Shared By Others

  1. Be supportive: Reassure your child that it’s not their fault that the content was shared.

  2. Delete the content: Encourage your child to ask the receivers to delete it. Help them remove it from social media or other websites.

  3. Get help: You and your child might feel distressed by the situation. Remind them that they can talk to another trusted adult. If the image was shared in the school environment, the school should also have set policies on how to deal with such incidents and be able to provide support. You can also contact the Internet Watch Foundation to help you get the content removed. Do you suspect it’s a criminal matter? - Contact the police.

Other Resources

The SafeToNet Mobile App is there to help your child navigate the difficult interactions that might arise when exploring the online world. Its Intelligent Keyboard acts as a real-time safeguarding assistant that helps educate your child on how to become a safer and kinder digital citizen.