Sexting among kids doubled during lockdowns: Children's helpline
Children experimented with sexting significantly more since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, according to children's helpline De Kindertelefoon. The helpline saw a clear increase in the conversations it had about sexting, even doubling during the lockdowns. More children also called to talk about sexually transgressive behavior online, the hotline found in an analysis of its conversations with children who called to chat.
In 2020, Kindertelefoon received about 30 percent more calls about sexting than the average in 2019. The helpline also noticed a gradual increase in kids between 10 and 12 calling about the topic. In more than half of the conversations about sexting, children said they regretted a nude photo or video they sent. In some cases, the photos or videos were obtained under duress. The number of conversations about threats or blackmail using nudes increased by 52 percent compared to 2019.
"In a world in which our social life takes place so much online, it is not surprising that your sexual development also partly takes place online," explained Simone Belt of Helpwanted. The way parents talk to their kids about sexting is crucial, she said, warning that simply telling children not to send nudes often backfires. "It can make victims feel like they've done something wrong, even when they've been pressured to take the photos."
In addition to explaining the risks, parents should also talk to their kids about sexting as safely as possible. "And that they can always come to you," Belt said. "Also, talk about treating someone else's photos with respect. Because the distributors are responsible, not the victims."
Sexuality expertise center Rutgers launched a national project week with the theme "Your body is yours." For a week participating schools in primary- and special education will focus on teaching kids about resilience, relationships, and sexuality. De Kindertelefoon is a partner in this project week.
"We often hear that children blame themselves when things go wrong. There is a lot of fear and shame about the subject," Kindertelefoon director Roline de Wilde said. But she stressed that even kids who are well aware of the risks of sexting could also face transgressive behavior online. "Most children do not dare to discuss it with their parents and are afraid that they will find out." Part of the national project week will focus on the importance of parents and children discussing things like sexting with each other.
De Kindertelefoon is for children and teenagers up to age 18. It holds about 1,400 conversations with children every day. Calls and online chats are anonymous and free of charge.