Spotlight on nude photo sharing: helping parents and teachers respond

A new Australian drama, SBS’s "The Hunting," is highlighting one of the big issues faced by young people, families and school communities today: the sharing of intimate images or videos without consent.

Sadly, variations of this form of image-based abuse are unfolding across Australia — and the highly anticipated series accurately depicts in its storyline the community-wide fall out of a teen nude photo scandal, where the collision of technology and sexual exploration can be devastating.

It’s a reality that we cannot afford to shy away from.

Supporting young people to use digital devices and online services in safe, informed, respectful and responsible ways is a shared responsibility.

So, The Hunting provides a timely opportunity for both parents and teachers to start age-appropriate conversations about acceptable and harmful online behaviours with young people. To help them do this, eSafety has collaborated with SBS to develop education resources that have practical information about how to handle image sharing and cyberbullying – and importantly, how to talk with young people about respect and consent online.

Photo credit: Nat Rogers and 'SBS drama, The Hunting'

"It was meant just for you"

The Hunting acknowledges that the sexual development of young people is a delicate and vulnerable time. It also highlights the uncomfortable realisation that often the practice of non-consensual image-sharing is less about sexual curiosity and exploration, and more about exhibiting power over peers. With girls and young women much more likely to have their image shared without consent, there is no denying that image-based abuse is also a gendered issue.

The series reminds viewers that there is always a choice between calling out harmful and disrespectful behaviour or feeding into it. So much of this comes down to helping young people stand-up to friendship pressures with conviction and to challenge the status quo of stereotypical, sexist behaviours.

Photo credit: Nat Rogers and 'SBS drama, The Hunting'

"What kind of man do you want our son to become?"

As parents and carers, we have the opportunity to positively influence our children’s sexual exploration and to help bolster both their safety and their ability to develop and navigate healthy, respectful and consenting intimate relationships.

We can also play an active role in shaping the values, attitudes and expectations of our children online. This is important, because what they see and do online is difficult to predict or control.

Exposure to sexually explicit material can desensitise young people and normalise inappropriate behaviours, so it’s essential to have these delicate conversations about the reality — or fictitiousness — of pornography, sooner rather than later.

Co-viewing the series with your teens also presents an opportunity to point out that portrayals of male dominance and female subservience, often made to seem normal and common place, are neither healthy nor something to aim for. As adults, we can guide young people to understand that intimacy should be founded in respect, trust, empathy and clear consent.

Photo credit: Nat Rogers and 'SBS drama, The Hunting'

"I don’t want to be a fire fighter, I want to affect real change."

Just as parents are prompted to examine their own attitudes towards sexuality, The Hunting asks Australian schools to examine their systemic preparedness for preventing and responding to the sharing of intimate images.

Schools should be ready for when the issue arises, not if. Questions need to be asked about how incidents involving explicit imagery will be handled and by whom?

Curriculum is also an important consideration — content that explores age and stage appropriate themes of privacy, respect, intimacy and consent as they play out in all contexts, including online, should be scaffolded across K-12 and embedded within all subject areas.

School leaders also play a critical role in ensuring their staff are equipped and confident to have conversations about what healthy, respectful, trusting relationships look like, so they become part of practice for every teacher, every day.

Students tend to be more responsive to these sensitive subjects when they are delivered by prepared and assured teachers. So, there is no better time for principals to be investing in the capacity building of their staff with sound, evidence based professional learning on digital well-being.

Photo credit: Nat Rogers and 'SBS drama, The Hunting'

"We have to work together…"

More broadly, we all need to challenge and reject attitudes that allow anyone to think the non-consensual sharing of intimate images is harmless, funny or even justified – whether we come across it at home, while socialising, at sporting clubs or in our workplaces.

We need to help our children (and each other) understand that while technology can be used to express sexuality or share intimacy with someone, it’s not without risk, responsibility and potentially devastating impacts.

We are all responsible for being aware that when a nude is shared without consent, it’s a serious breach of trust that can be felt by the victim for a lifetime.

eSafety is here to help. We are committed to providing all Australians with information and advice about image-based abuse and other online safety issues, as well as through curriculum-aligned .

We are also here to support Australians who have experienced the sharing of intimate images without consent – including the threat to share nude images or videos - by providing reporting options, support and resources for victims and those close to them. We have helped more than 1,300 Australians remove such images from public view – with a 90% success rate – and we are exercising new civil powers targeting individual perpetrators and content hosts.

Please visit eSafety’s image-based abuse portal for more information or to report at: Download The Hunting educational resources from SBS Learn Hub.