Technology has become an integral part of modern life, especially for young people who are being raised in a digitally dependent world. However, as children’s lives move progressively online, their dependence on technology and social media often leaves them vulnerable to a range of new and unforeseen issues, which parents aren’t always well equipped to navigate.
One particularly alarming new phenomenon is sexting, which refers to the distribution of sexually explicit images through technology and new media platforms. According to Marie Schmeltz, “very often, the private images are being further distributed without the consent of the original transmitter, which can lead to severe social and mental consequences. Research suggests that many young people sext while not being aware of these consequences… For this reason, sexting constitutes a threat to the well-being of young people today”.
Fortunately, while technology often presents us with problems, it tends to also offer its own solutions. Zipit is an anti sexting app created by Childline which helps young people to ‘be flirty without being dirty’.
Features For Parental Caution
Rated 12+ for the following reasons:
Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity
Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes
Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humour
Free to download, but may incur costs
What Parents Should Know
In its most basic form, Zipit is an anti-sexting app which uses humour to “help teenagers deal with unwanted requests for sexual images of themselves” . If a user receives a request from another user to send nudes or participate in sexting, they can shut the situation down by sending a humorous GIF or image. The images are saved under different categories, including ‘swerve dirty chat’, ‘change the subject’ and ‘slow down the convo’.
Users are also prompted with tips within the app, such as: ‘Report it!’, ‘Block it!’, and ‘Talk about it!’.
How It Works
Zipit is a free anti-sexting app that gives young people access to a gallery of images and GIFs they can send in response to requests for sexual pictures and shut down difficult sexting situations. Once downloaded onto your device, here’s what you can do with Zipit:
save GIFs and images onto your device and share with friends
share GIFs and images on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp
share GIFs on apps like Instagram and Snapchat
get advice to help you flirt without failing
call Childline for advice on dealing with a sexting situation
“Zipit gives (children) the weapon of humour so that they can resist this pressure in a way that feels appropriate and cool. Many parents have told me they feel helpless when they try to protect their children against these dangerous pressures, so I’d encourage families and professionals to take a look at Zipit and share it with the teenagers they know.” – Childline founder and President, Dame Esther Rantzen.
While sexting and its subsequent risks, such as sextortion and revenge porn, are certainly no laughing matter, humour can go a long way in helping to make difficult and taboo subjects more palatable. When the social stigma surrounding an issue creates tension, it can make awkward subjects such as sexting difficult to broach. It’s a widely accepted truth that humour can help to relieve tension, while also encouraging people to challenge the way that they look at things. Take, for example, this video created by the Canadian Centre For Child Protection, which uses humour to encourage young people to prevent sextortion by sending naked mole rat memes and gifs instead of nudes.
Zipit was originally released in 2013, and while it has since been updated, it’s fair to say that the anti-sexting app occasionally shows its age.
The basic principle driving the app is one of empowering young people to navigate awkward or uncomfortable flirty exchanges while they’re still developing conflict management skills. Young people are highly vulnerable to social pressures, and sexting requests can be difficult to shut down without ‘losing face’.
Wendy Robinson, a manager at Childline, has said that “many young people tell Childline that they feel pressured into sending sexual images of themselves and don’t always have the confidence to say no” .
More than being an anti-sexting app which addresses the root of the problem, the Zipit app is designed to address the social and interpersonal aspects of the sexting phenomenon. It’s clear that young adults and adolescents who get caught up in sexting behaviours aren’t often fully aware of the seriousness of it, and are usually acting out of a pressure to conform to social norms rather than a desire to willfully participate. Therefore, if your child has an anti-sexting app such as Zipit or ‘Send This Instead’, or if they express an interest in downloading one, this should serve as a sign that an honest, non-judgmental conversation about sexting, consent, and digital privacy is needed.
1. Marie Schemltz, 2015. A comparative study of two successful sexting campaigns. Bachelor Thesis.
2. NSPCC, 2017. Childline app helps teenagers say ‘no’ to sexting.
3. Farnham Herald, 2017. Zipit app evolves in anti-sexting fight