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Sexual Health

Sexting: Teens and Technology

​​​​​​​​​​A Guide for Caregivers and Professionals

What is sexting?

  • Sexting is when people send or receive sexual pictures, messages, or videos through technology,​ e.g. cell phone, app, email, or webcam.
  • The word sextin​g comes from a combination of the words sex and text.
  • In Canada, about 25% of students in Grades 7 to 11 have received or sent a sext.

Why might teens sext?

  • Many teens communicate by text.
  • Texting may be a comfortable way to develop relationships and explore sexuality. A teen might send a sext as a sign of trust.
  • It’s normal to develop sexual identity and have romantic relationships.

Tips for Talking to your teen

  • Make sure you choose a good time to talk.
  • Ask what your teen thinks. Try not to lecture.
  • Listen carefully. Make sure you understand questions before you answer.
  • Talk about sexting when you talk about healthy relationships, self-esteem, peer pressure, and sex.

How can I talk about sexting?

Try these questions to start talking:

  • Have you heard of sexting?
  • How do you feel about sexting?
  • Do you know anyone who has sent a sext?
  • What could you do if you get a sext?
  • What should you do if you’re asked to send a sext?
  • What could happen if you send a sext?

Things to tell your Teen

  • Sexting is a choice. You need to feel in control about what you send and receive.
  • Be kind and show respect. In the electronic world, act the same as you would when you’re face to face.
  • Never assume your messages or pictures will stay private. They may be copied, shared, or stored.
  • Say no when you’re not comfortable with what is happening. Talk to a safe adult about it.
  • Come up with a response for when you are asked to send a sext like “Sorry, I only practice safe sext”.
  • Think before you send. How will others react? Your friends, family, or future boss might see it.
  • Don’t forward. Sharing sexts may be against the law.

How can I help keep my teen safe?

  • Learn about new apps, social networking, and technology.
  • Talk about family values and set expectations about what is okay to share.
  • Set limits. Keep technology use in public areas like the kitchen, not in bedrooms. Limit hours for use and how many texts can be sent in a day.
  • Monitor accounts and know passwords. Follow your teens on social media and use parental controls.
  • Watch for warning signs like skipping activities or meals, losing or gaining weight, or a drop in grades.

What if pictures are posted online?

Contact the site(s) where the image has been posted and ask for it to be removed. Include this information:

  • say you’re the person in the picture
  • your age when the picture was taken
  • say that you don’t want the content posted
  • the URL for the image

Think about reporting to Canada’s tip line for online sexual exploitation of children at

What are the risks of sexting?

Pictures and messages that were considered private can be shared. Once in cyberspace, it can be hard to control who sees them or have them deleted.

The sharing of sexts can have negative effects on self-image, mental health, and relationships.

Creating sexual pictures of anyone younger than 18 years old (including yourself) is considered child pornography. This is against the law.

Sharing sexts not intended for others may be considered cyberbullying and may be against the law (e.g., child pornography, criminal harassment, luring a child, and uttering threats).

For More Information

Current as of: August 25, 2017

Author: Sexual and Reproductive Health, Alberta Health Services