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Sexting is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit text, image or video on their mobile phone, usually in a text message. Find out how you can stay in control and what to do if a photo has fallen into the wrong hands.

Image of a girl looking at her phoneWhat is sexting?

When people talk about sexting, they usually refer to sending and receiving:

  • naked pictures or 'nudes'
  • 'underwear shots'
  • sexual or 'dirty pics'
  • rude text messages or videos. 

They can be sent from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or someone you've met online. You might have also sent a sexual photo, video or text to someone else.

We understand how easily sexting can happen and how things can go wrong – even when you didn’t mean for them to.



Sexting can happen for lots of reasons. You might:

  • 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
  • be in love with the person and trust them completely and feel like it’s okay
  • 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.

Before you send a photo, think about:

What could happen to it?
Once you press send, it is no longer in your control. It can be posted anywhere on the internet. It could end up on social networking sites or even porn sites.

Who might see it?
Don’t send anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers or friends seeing. Even if you completely trust someone, other people using their phone might accidently see it.

What are the risks?
Even if you use a webcam or an app like Snapchat, the person can take a screen shot in seconds.

Who are you sending it to?
Would you feel weird if you were going to do something sexual with them in person? Would you be able to have a conversation about sex with them? 

Why do you want to send it?
If you want to impress somebody, you can do it in other ways. In most cases, sexting can have the opposite effect and you could be seen as somebody you’re not.

Download ChildLine's free Zipit app for loads of great comebacks if someone's trying to get you to send them a sexual image.

Someone keeps asking me for photos. What should I do?

Ask them to stop, send them a friendly Zipit pic or just don’t reply at all and hopefully they’ll get the hint. But if they’re still bothering you or making you feel upset it’s okay to block them - even if it’s just for a bit.

If an adult has been making you feel uncomfortable by asking you to send them images, you can report them on the CEOP site. If an adult does this it is sometimes called online grooming. You can find out more about that here.

It is wrong for anyone to be pressuring you in this way. If you are under 18, they are breaking the law.


  • They keep saying that I "promised" them to send images.

    Sometimes people send photos because they are indirectly made to feel guilty.

    For example, somebody might be saying “I sent you a photo, so where’s mine?” or say that you “promised” them that you would send a picture. This is also a form of emotional blackmail and can make you think that you 'owe' them when you do not.

    You have the right to say no and not be pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. Sex and sexual activity of any kind is something people do together to feel good – not something which can be ‘owed’. You don’t have to do anything you don't want to do - even if you are in a relationship or have done sexual things with that person before.

  • I’ve been sent a rude photo. What do I do?

    If you’ve asked for a rude photo or somebody like your boyfriend or girlfriend has sent you one out of the blue, don’t pass this photo on or share it with anyone. Think about how that person might feel if somebody else saw it. If you are asking your boyfriend or girlfriend for a naked photo – think about how much trust they will need to give you and how much pressure you will be putting on them.

    If you’ve been sent a rude or sexual photo from a stranger, you should speak to an adult in your life that you trust and tell them what you have received. This is really important if you are under 18 or the other person is much older than you. You can also report them using CEOP’s reporting website and block them from contacting you again. This will stop them from sending you more inappropriate pictures. Find out more about what you can do if an adult or someone older than you is trying to get you to send sexual images.

  • An adult has sent me a sexual message. What should I do?

    Not everyone is always honest about who they are online. If you’ve received a sexual message (that includes all types of messages, such as an email, text message, picture message or voicemail) or one that makes you uncomfortable, you should speak to an adult in your life that you trust. Telling them about the message you were sent can help the situation.

    This is really important if you are under 18 or if the person who sent you the message is much older. Many social networking sites and apps will let you report the message and block the person from contacting you again. This will help stop them from sending you more inappropriate messages. It’s also a good idea to report what happened to CEOP.

    In Scotland, it is illegal for an adult to send you a sexual message if you are 15 or under. If this happens to you and you live in Scotland, you should talk to an adult you trust who can help you report it to the police. An inappropriate message from an adult could include things like "what are you wearing?"

    If you’re worried about anything you’ve been sent or you’re not sure what to do, you can always talk to ChildLine.

    Read more about online grooming or find out about blocking and reporting people on social networks.

  • How do I block someone online?

    When you block somebody online, it stops them from being able to contact you. You will no longer see messages from them and can stop somebody harassing you for images or bullying you online.

    Find out how to block someone on:

    - Tumblr

  • How do I block somebody from calling or texting me?

    With text messages and calls it can be a bit harder to block someone. This means you should always be careful about giving people your phone number.

    You can block a particular number from contacting you on some mobiles.

    BBM and most messenger apps let you un-invite or block users. Check your phone user guide to see if yours can. If it gets too much, getting your phone number changed or buying a new SIM card is another option. A parent or carer could help you with this.

  • Someone is threatening to share photos of me and using blackmail

    Blackmail is when somebody uses threats or pressure to try and make somebody else do something. For example, a boyfriend or girlfriend could say, “If you split up with me, I’ll post that naked photo of you on the internet.”

    Trying to manipulate someone in this way is wrong and it is not your fault if it's happening to you. You might think that they have all the control in this situation, but they don’t. If you are under 18 and your ex sends a picture of you onto somebody else, they will be breaking the law.

    If images are being used against you, you can fill out a report form on the CEOP website or talk to ChildLine free on 0800 1111 about any worries you might have.

  • Is sexting against the law?

    Having sexting photos or videos on your phone or computer
    If you are under the age of 18, the law sees you as a child. Therefore, if you have any indecent images or videos of somebody who is under 18 you would technically be in possession of an indecent image of a child – even if you are the same age. This is an offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988. 

    Sending sexting photos or videos
    If you are under 18 and you send, upload or forward indecent images or videos onto friends or boyfriends/girlfriends, this would also be breaking the law, even if they are photos of yourself ('selfies').

  • Will ChildLine get me into trouble?

    No. We know that sexting happens and many people see it as a normal part of life. ChildLine isn't here to get you into trouble. We understand the reasons why you might end up sexting and it’s okay to make mistakes. It is also okay to be afraid or concerned about reporting something or asking for help but this is often the first step in dealing with things like this.

    No matter what has happened - whether you’ve sent an indecent photo of yourself, asked for a photo or shared one with friends – ChildLine can help.

  • I’ve sent a photo to someone and I wish I hadn’t, what can I do? 

    If you have sent an image to someone and wish you hadn’t, have an honest conversation with them and ask them to delete it. The quicker you are able to do this the better, as you may be able to stop them passing it on.

  • A picture of me is going around school. What do I do?

    When sexting goes badly, it can make you feel ashamed, guilty, embarrassed or anxious about what people might say – this is a natural reaction. The good news is that there are things you can do to make the situation better and prevent it from happening again. 

    The sooner you talk to somebody about the situation the better. This could be your mum, dad or a school teacher. Your school will have ways of dealing with these sorts of problems and can confiscate mobiles if they believe they have sexual images on them. The sooner you tell somebody, the more likely you can stop the image from being shared further.

    You can also contact a ChildLine counsellor on 0800 1111 or through 1-2-1 online chat.  We don’t have to tell anybody else what has happened if you don’t want us to. In some cases, if the photo has been posted online, ChildLine can try and get it taken down.

  • Photos of me have been posted on the internet. What can I do?

    If you know that an indecent or sexual image of you or a friend has been posted on the internet, you can contact the website, such as Facebook or YouTube, to have it removed. You can do this by visiting the help and safety areas of the website and following their reporting links. You can also talk to a ChildLine counsellor to see if they can help take the photo down.

  • Can I ask ChildLine to get a photo taken down from the internet?

    You can contact ChildLine free on 0800 1111 or through 1-2-1 chat online for support. For help getting a photograph removed from the internet, ChildLine can make a report to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) for you.

    ChildLine is a confidential service, but for us to make a report on your behalf to the IWF we need you to confirm who you are and your date of birth. Please speak to a  counsellor to find out more about what this would involve.

    Unfortunately, there may be situations where the IWF can't get a photo removed. You can talk to a counsellor more about this over the phone but we will try our best to help you as much as possible.

  • Can I talk to ChildLine about sexting?

    Yes. ChildLine gives information and advice on a range of issues for young people up to the age of nineteen. Whether you’re worried about sex, the way you look, feeling embarrassed, bullying or relationships - ChildLine can help.

    - We know how sexting can easily happen and the sorts of worries you might have.
    - We understand that you might be under a lot of pressure - it’s okay to make mistakes.
    - We’re not here to judge or get you into trouble.
    - We won’t tell anybody else what has happened.
    - We’re not easily shocked by what you tell us.
    - You don’t have to go into detail if you don’t want to.
    - We will listen and support you in making the situation better. 

    Sometimes, it helps to get a fresh perspective on things - we might suggest things that you haven’t thought of before and can help to get images taken down. If something’s on your mind, don’t bottle it up – it helps to talk

    Call ChildLine free on 0800 1111 or have a 1-2-1 chat online

Other sites that can help

Advice on staying safe online
Think U Know?

CEOP is here to help young people report somebody
CEOP Reporting site

You & Co has advice about sexting and the law.
You & Co


Got a sexting dilemma? Get help and support from other young people on the ChildLine message boards

Message boards: Online safety

Call ChildLine

You can call ChildLine at any time on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor. Calls are free and confidential.

Call ChildLine

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