Sexting – what is it?

Sexting is where you send naked, partially naked, suggestive or sexually explicit pictures of yourself by text message or instant message, or over the internet. It can include sexually explicit or suggestive messages.

Whilst sending suggestive or sexually explicit messages to your boyfriend or girlfriend might be fun at the time you should always consider what will happen if they show their friends.

Screenshots of text messages, Snapchat or Instagram are very easily forwarded to friends of friends, or posted on social media. They can go viral from there and you will never be able to get it back.

Sexting - is it legal?

Sending sexual photographs of yourself or someone else is illegal.

Sending or receiving sexual photographs of anyone is illegal. This is very serious and you can be charged with crimes related to transmitting pornography. You might think that a picture you have is okay because the person in it agreed to have their photo taken or because they sent it to you in the first place. but the law doesn’t distinguish between photos that young people take of their friends or partners and other types of pornography. Any sexual image of a person underage could be considered pornography by a court.

This means that you can’t take, send or store a sexual picture of yourself, even if you decide you want to, and even if you’re old enough to consent (agree) to other sexual activity. You can’t film or photograph yourselves with your clothes off or doing anything sexual.

Sexting – the consequences

As well as being illegal , there are other consequences to sexting. It can also lead to serious penalties or being found guilty of sexual offences, and it may come back to haunt you later .

Even if you are in a secure relationship now, you may break up in the future and the other person could show the images to someone else. When people find out what you did or see the pictures it could lead to bullying and or humiliation. It might be that once the other person receives the photos they want to ‘brag’ to their friends, who then show others and before you know it everyone you know has seen you naked or in a compromised position.

You should consider the consequences of sexting regardless of your age as not all relationships last and not all end nicely. Once those pictures leave your control you never know where they might wind up or when! Remember – once those images are out there you can’t get them back. It’s forever!

Sexting – conclusions

At the end of the day, there is no safe way to send a sexual picture. You can’t control who sees a photo of you or someone else once it has been sent by text, email or posted online.

The best way to stay safe is:

  • don’t take, send or store a sexual photo or video of anyone under 18;
  • if you receive a sexual picture of someone who you know is under 18 or who looks under 18, DON’T share it and DO delete it immediately; and
  • if you’re worried about a picture that’s already out there, talk to an adult you trust.