Learning that an inappropriate picture or video of your child is plastered across the Internet might be one of a parent’s worst nightmares. And when nearly one in three 17-year-olds report sending or receiving a sext, it can happen more often than most parents would think.
Would you know what to do if you discovered that a nude or suggestive photo of your child was appearing online, or if you found out that it was being widely shared among other kids at your child’s school?
- Assure your child it will be okay. When an inappropriate photo of them goes viral, teens can feel that the resulting bullying and embarrassment will go on forever. Depression, anxiety, skipping school, self-harming behaviors, and even suicide can be reactions to victims who feel that this will never end.
- Get the facts straight. You are the judge of whether pr not you need to view the image yourself, but you do need to know the details about the specific content of the image. You also need to know whether your child was involved in creating or distributing it.
- Contact the school and local law enforcement. Depending on the content of the image and the current situation, your child’s school and the police may be able to take down some of the images and discipline the people responsible for spreading it. When directed, contact web servers to remove additional images.
- Seek support for your child. Help your teen identify supportive friends who will help them through the ordeal ahead. If your child seems extremely disturbed, seek professional help and ask your child’s teachers to inform you of any disturbing behaviors they may observe.
- Consider appropriate consequences. If your child played a part in creating or sending the image in the first place, restricting Internet or cell phone privileges until they can demonstrate more responsible behavior is in order.
- Check in with your child frequently. How is your child feeling? Are they being harassed or bullied by others as a result of the image? Teens should be aware of how to respond to harassment and report it, if and when it happens.
Whether your child initially shared the image themselves or whether it was taken and shared without their consent, every parent should know what to do and say if their child becomes a victim of a sexual image gone viral. Ensure your child’s emotional health, get help from law enforcement and the school, and educate your child about Internet safety practices.
This is not a situation that any parent would like to find themselves in, but knowing what to do if the unthinkable happens will make a big difference in how it all impacts your child.
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.