What is sexting?

Sexting is becoming increasingly common. It is the sharing of sexually explicit or inappropriate images, videos or messages either online or via mobile phones. It can be shared between partners, friends and strangers.

Before you send content, think about…

The law

First of all, even if a picture or video is taken and sent with a person’s permission, sexting by people under 18 is illegal. This is because it is essentially creating, sharing and keeping indecent content of a child. This law is, first and foremost, there to protect young people.

What could happen to it

The second that inappropriate images, videos or messages leave your phone or are shared online, where they go can not be controlled. They can be saved or copied by others and there is the risk that they can become public.

The long term risk

Sharing content is a long term risk even if they are sent via ‘private’ apps that imply that images and videos ‘self destruct’ after a certain amount of time. Explicit content is easy to save and although you may trust the person you send it to now not to share it further, this may change in future. It could end up in the wrong hands.

Why you want to send it

There are a number of reasons why sexting can happen. You may:

  • Be in love with the person and trust them completely and feel like it’s ok
  • Have a long distance or online relationship with someone and want to have a sexual relationship with them
  • Feel proud of your body and want to share it with other people
  • Feel like ‘everyone else is doing it’ and want to fit in with in with friends – especially if they are boasting about sending or having photos on their mobile phone
  • Worry about being seen as ‘not sexy’, ‘frigid’ or ‘shy’ and go along with things you’re uncomfortable with
  • Feel under pressure to sext as a way of ‘proving’ your sexuality
  • Feel harassed, threatened or blackmailed into sending pictures
  • Feel it’s easier just to ‘give in’ to somebody who keeps asking for things
  • Think you ‘owe’ your boyfriend or girlfriend or made to feel guilty if you don’t do what they ask you for

(Source: ChildLine)

Sexting can have the opposite effect that many people want it to. What can be seen as impressing someone now may have consequences in future. Don’t ever think that just because someone is pressuring you into sending them explicit content that you have to do so.

How you might feel if it is shared.

The distribution of sexually explicit content can be both distressing and upsetting for those involved, especially if it is shared by someone they trusted. Think about your reputation both now and in the future.

What if it’s already been sent?

Talk to the person that you sent it to and ask them to delete contents from anywhere that it is saved. This includes on technology and external storages devices (such as iCloud).

If you are worried about content being shared then you can contact ChildLine confidentially by calling 0800 11 11.

If content has been shared then talk to an adult close to you (family member or teacher). By letting them know what has happened they will be able to support you to take control of the situation. In some cases it may be necessary to contact your local police so that they can help to prevent content being shared. It is not OK for them to share your image without your permission and, as explained above, the law is there to protect you.

If you are concerned that you have been groomed or pressured into sending content to someone over 18 then it’s important that you make a report to the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. Their aim is to make sure that you stay safe online and don’t do anything that you don’t feel comfortable with.

If you are a parent and you are concerned about sexting then you can find information and advice on the NSPCC website.