Sending a sexual text, image or video can be dangerous if shared with the wrong person. Once you send a message, you're not in control of what happens to it. Even if it’s posted online we can help. Here's some advice about sexting.

What is sexting?

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

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

They can be sent to or from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or someone you've met online.
Sexting can easily happen. Things can go wrong – even when you didn't mean for them to.


What you need to know about sexting:

  • once you send a message you can't control what happens to it
  • don't let someone guilt or pressure you into sending a sex text
  • if you've sent a nude pic, have an honest conversation with the person you sent it to. Ask them to delete it
  • if an indecent or nude pic of you is posted online, you can contact the website directly or make a report online to try and get it removed.

You've already shared photos – what now?

When sexting goes badly, it can make you feel ashamed, guilty, embarrassed or anxious. But there are things you can do to make the situation better and prevent it from happening again.

Try having an honest conversation with the person you sent the image to. Ask them to delete it. The quicker you're able to do this the better. You can't control what someone will do with an image, but having an honest conversation can help to make sure they won't pass it on.

Getting help

The sooner you talk to somebody about the situation the better. This could be your mum, dad, carer 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.

Reporting an image or video

If you’re under 18 and a sexual or nude pic of you is posted online, that's illegal. But we can help. You can contact the website directly yourself or report it to the National Crime Agency

Not sure whether or not to say something? Making a report can be scary, but our counsellors are here to support you. They can talk about what might happen and talking to them is confidential.

You can talk to us

Our counsellors are here to support you. Call free on 0800 1111 or try a 
1-2-1 chat online.

is sexting illegal?

When you’re under 18 it’s against the law for anyone to take or have a sexual photo of you – even if it’s a selfie.

This means that if you pressure someone into taking a photo or you share a sexual photo with someone, you’re breaking the law. The police have the power to decide whether it’s for the best to record what’s happened or to take things further. But the law is there to protect young people, not punish them.

If you’re both under 18 and in a healthy relationship it’s unlikely that the police would want to take things further.

If you’re worried about speaking to the police or if someone’s pressuring you to send a sexual photo, you can talk to a Childline counsellor.

Report sexting or bullying on social media

It's against the law for anyone to share a naked image of someone under 18. This includes photos of children who have turned 18 since the pictures were taken. If you see a naked image of someone under 18, or someone has shared a naked picture of you, there are things you can do.

Lots of social media sites can support you if you're being bullied or if people are bullying you online.

Here’s how to report sexting or bullying on:

If you’re 18 or over

If you're over 18 and someone’s shared a naked or sexual picture of you without your consent they’re breaking the law.

Lots of social media sites will take images of you down if you report it, but it’s not always possible. If someone has posted a picture of you online and you’re not sure what to do, there’s a special Revenge Pornography Helpline to help people who are over 18.

After you’ve made a report

Not all sites will take content down straight away, and sometimes they might not take something down when you’ve made a report.

Remember that you can keep making reports if you are concerned about something, but it can also help to talk to an adult you trust.

Even when you’ve reported something it can still have an effect on you. No matter what’s happening you can talk to Childline.

Reasons for Sexting

Sexting can happen for lots of reasons. You might:

  • feel like ‘everyone else is doing it’ even if they’re not – especially if they're exaggerating about sending photos or boasting about having them on their 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
  • want someone's approval
  • 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
  • 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.

We understand how easily sexting can happen and how things can go wrong - even when you didn't mean them to. But we're here to help. You can speak to a counsellor at any time.

Things to think about before sending a photo or video

Before pressing the send button or starting a live stream, here are a few things to think about:

What to do if someone asks you to send a photo

Sometimes people send photos because they are made to feel guilty. For example, somebody might say "I sent you a photo, so where's mine?" or say that you "promised" them that you would send a picture. This is wrong. It's also a form of emotional blackmail.

You don't owe them anything and they shouldn't try to make you feel guilty.

They might threaten to post a sexual image of you online if you don't send them more images or do something on camera. This is wrong. It can feel scary or like you're trapped in the situation. But if you're not sure what to do, talk to a counsellor. We can help.

I'm feeling pressured

Nobody should pressure you into doing anything you don't want to do. Sex and sexual activity of any kind is something people do together to feel good. It's 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.

When you're on a live stream you might feel pressured to do something sexual. Remember that it's not okay for people to push you to do something you're not comfortable with.

How to stop someone sexting you

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.

WhatsApp 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. Find out more about changing your privacy settings.

If an adult has been making you feel uncomfortable by asking you to send them images or do sexual things, you can report them on the CEOP website. If an adult does this it is sometimes called online grooming. It is wrong for anyone to be pressuring you in this way. If you are under 18, they are breaking the law.

What to do if you're sent sexual images

If you've been sent a sexual image or video, don't pass it on or share it with anyone. Think about how that person might feel if somebody else saw it. Think about how you'd feel if it was a picture of you. If you're asking your boyfriend or girlfriend for a naked photo, think about how much trust they'll need to give you and how much pressure you'll be putting on them.

People aren't always honest about who they are online. If you've received a sexual message (including things like an email, text message, picture message, sexual photo or voicemail) or one that makes you uncomfortable, try talking to an adult you trust.

Telling them about the message you were sent can help the situation. This is really important if you're under 18 or the other person is much older than you.

You can also report them using the CEOP reporting website and block them from contacting you again. This'll stop them from sending you more inappropriate pictures.