Red alert: What can parents do if an inappropriate photo of their child is leaked?

Teen monitoring app

A horrible scenario for a parent: your teen took an inappropriate photo of themselves, which intentionally or unintentionally got sent to someone. Children make mistakes, but there are ways to act quickly and correct them.

If you discovered that an inappropriate photo of your child was sent to someone else, or somehow leaked, there a few steps and measures you can take to minimize the damage.

Understand what has happened

As troubling as this sounds, please remember that taking racy or nude selfies is unfortunately common among teens and tweens. In most cases, those pictures are not leaked, and even if they are, the situation can usually get resolved quickly and with no lasting harm.

First, talk to your child.

This might be an awkward or scary conversation to have, and you might be flooded with anger or fear thinking of what your son or daughter may have done. So first, make sure you are calm. Remind yourself that this is a kid being a kid. Entering the conversation in a rageful or highly distressed state is the quickest way of shutting your kid down and preventing you from finding out the facts. When you talk with your teen, the most important questions you need to find out are to whom were the pictures sent (such as another kid, an adult, an online forum), and what was the context under this occurred (such as a dare, a relationship, pressure from the other side).

Resolve the situation

If the picture was sent to another child, who’s identity you know, and the pictures did not find their way to the school community or the Internet yet, the situation can most likely be resolved by taking the following actions as soon as possible:
1. CONTACT – Contact that child’s parents, explain the situation, and ask them to delete the pictures. Advise them to ask their child to do it on his or her own, under their supervision, since they might not know all the folders in which the pictures are stored.
2. DELETE – Tell your teen to delete all the inappropriate pictures they might still have on their own phone or computer.
3. CONTACT – If your child sent the pictures using social media, contact Facebook, Instagram or any other social networks he or she might have used. The social media companies are fearful of such situations, and usually answer requests to delete such content promptly and effectively.

You can contact Facebook, Instagram and other social networks

If the pictures were to leak to the school or the Internet, the situation can still be managed, and we suggest you do the following:

If the pictures found their way  to the school community or the Internet, the situation can still be managed, and we suggest you do the following:

1. SUPPORT – Your child is probably feeling ashamed, embarrassed and betrayed. He or she did not intend for the pictures to reach such a wide audience. Adding your own criticism will not help Instead, this is your chance to provide support and express how sorry you are this has happened.

2. CONFRONT – Ask your child to confront whoever leaked the photo, if they feel safe enough to do so, and demand of him or her to delete the pictures and ask his or her friends to do the same. It is unclear whether this would actually happen, but just making this demand will provide your child with some sense of empowerment.

3. INVOLVE – If the pictures are circulating in the school, reach out to the principal or vice-principal and ask for their help. Most schools have dealt with such situations before, and you might be surprised by how much they can achieve.

4. REMOVE – If the pictures were posted on social media, contact the company behind the platform and ask it to remove all posts containing the photos. Most social media companies are fearful of such situations and remove such content quickly and without any difficulties.

To contact Facebook go to: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/144059062408922?ref=u2u
To contact Twitter go to: https://help.twitter.com/en/safety-and-security/report-abusive-behavior
To contact Snapchat go to: https://support.snapchat.com/en-US/i-need-help?start=5153567363039232
To contact Instagram go to: https://help.instagram.com/165828726894770

All other similar social networks have pages designed to help parents with these types of situations.

And if necessary – report the crime

A much darker possibility, which is not frequent but should be acknowledged, is that your child was a victim of a crime. At times, kids threaten, coerce or blackmail other kids into sending them pictures. At other times, it is an adult, or a much older kid, who preys upon those who are younger and more vulnerable, and tricks them into sending such pictures.
If that is the case, your most important task would be to once again support your child, who was a victim of a crime. Tell them that you love them and that they should not be blamed for anything that happened.

Then, consider doing the following:

1. SEEK HELP – Being a victim of such a crime can be traumatizing, so consider finding a child therapist to consult with. Do so especially if you notice any radical change in your child’s mood or behavior, of if there are any indications of thoughts of self-harm. Your child’s school counselor or pediatrician will most likely be able to offer some good referrals.

2. REPORT – Consider reporting the crime to local law enforcement. Most police department will show sensitivity when talking with your child about the incident. This will help your child regain a sense of empowerment and might help protect other children from the same predator. However, do so only after consulting your son or daughter. Your child has already been in a situation where his or her wishes and opinions were overpowered by someone else. Doing so without such consultation may be experienced as another coercion.

But how would you even know?

More than fixing the damage, the real challenge as a parent is to even find out that something is wrong. The shame, or the fear of being punished, causes many children to remain silent, rather than ask for help. Talk to your children, and pay close attention to signs that might indicate something is wrong. An app like Jiminy, a child monitoring app for Android phones, will notify you in case an inappropriate photo is found on your child phone, which could help you resolve this type of situations before it has a chance to escalate.

Some extra reading on monitoring your child’s phone:
How can parents monitor Instagram?
4 Ways to Recognize Dangerous Apps for Kids
Is Snapchat safe for kids? It could be

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