7 questions parents and carers ask about nude selfies

7 questions parents ask about nude selfies

Many parents and carers ask us about young people taking and sharing revealing pics of themselves. Here we answer your most frequent questions with the best advice on keeping children safe...

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1. What is a nude selfie?

A ‘nude selfie’ is a phrase used to describe a self-produced nude or semi-nude photograph or video. These pictures can be taken on an electronic device (for example, a phone or tablet) and shared over the internet. Young people may use a range of other terms to describe a ‘nude selfie’, including ‘nudes’, ‘pics’ or ‘n4n’ (nudes for nudes).

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2. Are all young people taking nude selfies?

Although teenagers tell us that sharing sexual pictures and videos is not unusual, research shows it is not something that most young people do. In fact, the older a person is the more likely they are to have taken and shared a nude selfie, so adults are much more prolific sharers than young people.

Digital Romance, a research project led by CEOP and Brook found that just over 1/3 of young people surveyed had sent a ‘sexual or nude image’, and were more likely to receive a sexual or nude image taken or shared by someone else.  

Findings also indicated that gender identity impacted the way young people engage with image sharing – with non-binary young people reporting significantly higher rates of both sending and receiving nudes; girls feeling more pressured than boys to send nude images; and boys more likely to share on nude images of others.

Although digital technology is an important part of the way young people communicate and form relationships, and they may experiment with sharing nude selfies, young people surveyed said technology didn’t replace face-to-face relationship development.

“Cos, like, I think it’s easier to talk over Snapchat, like, when the first two, three, two, three weeks over Snapchat and then as time goes on it’s easy to speak them in person I think”

(Alfie, 14, interview participant – Digital Romance)

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3. Why might my child share a nude selfie?

There are many reasons why a young person might send a nude selfie:

  • Curiosity or experimentation
  • To fit in with friends that may be doing the same thing
  • To flirt with a partner or someone they like
  • For sexual enjoyment and intimacy as part of a relationship
  • For fun or humour within a peer group
  • In search of validation due to low body confidence
  • Pressure from another person
  • As a method of revenge or retaliation

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4. It is illegal to send nude selfies?

It is illegal to take, possess or share naked images of anyone under 18 and it is important that your child is aware of this.

However, the police recognise that young people may create and share nude selfies because of natural curiosity about sex and exploration in a healthy relationship. The law was created to protect young people, not punish them. The police approach cases with a common sense attitude and most cases where a young person has shared an image of themselves are recorded as ‘not in the public interest to pursue’; that means that they are not treated as a crime and highly unlikely ever to be recorded in future – for example on a DBS check.

However, young people who pressure other under 18s to take sexual photos, or intentionally share other people’s nudes without consent are committing a serious offence.

Remember: A child will never be in trouble with the police if they have shared a nude image of themselves with an adult. This is child sexual abuse and should be reported to CEOP, who will ensure that the child is protected.

For more advice and support for parents, see our short films: Nude Selfies: What Parents and Carers Need to Know.

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5. How do I even begin to talk to my child about this?

Sharing images, clothed or nude, is often just another way that young people are communicating and navigating the world.

Talking to your child about sex, relationships and nude selfies is the number one thing you can do to keep them safe.

Many children see parents as the positive role models they turn to for emotional support and advice. Many said that lack of support from parents contributed to difficulties and led them to feel that they had no-one to talk to.

“What I would be afraid of if I told my mum is that my mum would get ashamed of me and all that. And, like, some parents take it really hard and might, might even disown you” 

(Tyler12, focus group participant – Digital Romance)

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The more relaxed and calm you seem, the more open your child will be to talking to you about their online life, and coming to you for help if they need it.

There are some easy ways to start a conversation about sharing nudes – it doesn’t have to be awkward. 

What to consider when talking to your child about nude selfies:

  • Pick a quiet time with no distractions.
  • Consider starting off with an example from a TV programme or an article about a celebrity who shared a nude.
  • Ask them if they think it’s something young people do – distancing the conversation gives them the opportunity to share their opinions without sharing personal details at first.
  • Give your child the chance to discuss their own thoughts and views on sharing nude selfies. 
  • Avoid appearing judgemental, or saying ‘don’t do it’ without opening up a conversation about it first. If they think you are judging them, they are much less likely to open up or ask you for help if they need it.
  • Explain that even when images are shared with trusted friends or partners, there's a chance that more people could end up seeing them. 
  • Discuss what a healthy relationship looks like, including the importance of trust and consent. Explain that no one should be pressured into sending nude images. 
  • Encourage your child to take a ‘positive bystander’ approach. This may involve taking action if nude images of others are being shared without consent. Our article for teens ‘When nudes get shared around’ has more advice.
  • Young people can find advice on the topic of nudes on our 11 to 18s website.

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6. When should I be worried?

Young people share nude selfies for different reasons and in different ways, and although there is always a risk, some situations are more risky than others.

There are things to look out for that may increase the risk and worry for your child:

  • Your child is feeling under pressure to share nude selfies with a partner, friends, a bully, or even a stranger online.
  • Another young person or adult is sharing pictures of your child or other young people online without their consent.
  • Your child is sharing sexual or nude pictures of other children.
  • Your child has been sharing sexual or nude pictures on sites where anyone could see them.
  • Trust your instincts – if your child’s behaviour has changed or feels concerning, talk to them.

For more advice, see our short video ‘Nude Selfies: Should I be Worried?’ here

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7. My child has shared a nude - where can I get help?

If your child has shared a nude image and is worried, there are a number of steps that can be taken and organisations who can help.

1. Ask them to delete it

Your child may have shared a nude image of themselves with a friend or a partner. Often, the person an image has been sent to will not want to share it any further. Advise your child to have an honest conversation with them and ask them to delete it.

2. Report the image

Social networks don’t allow naked images of those under 18. If the image has been posted online, a report can be made on most popular sites and the image should be taken down.

If the site doesn’t have any way to report the image, you can report to the Internet Watch Foundation who may be able to assist in taking the image taken down

3. Report to CEOP

If your child shared a picture or video because they were threatened, pressured, or forced to, report to CEOP. CEOP can help protect your child. It is never too late to get help. 

Find out more about organisations that can help you and your child here.