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. 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 or videos.

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 send a sex text, have an honest conversation with the person you sent to image to. Ask them to delete it
  • if an indecent or sexual image of you is posted online, you can contact the website directly to have it removed.

Reasons for Sexting

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 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, 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 indirectly 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. 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.

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I'm feeling pressured

You shouldn't 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. 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.

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.

If an adult has been making you feel uncomfortable by asking you to send them images, 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.

You've already shared photos – what now?

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.

Have an honest conversation with the person you sent the image to. Ask them to delete it. The quicker you are able to do this the better. You may be able to stop them passing it on.

Getting help

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.

It can seem weird or scary to tell an adult you know about sexting. So you can always talk to a counsellor if that's easier. Our counsellors won't tell anybody else what happened if you don't want them to. In some cases, if the photo has been posted online, we can try and get it taken off the internet. If you want, talk to a counsellor and we 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.

Contacting websites directly

If you know that an indecent or sexual image of you or a friend has been posted online, you can contact the website, such as Facebook or YouTube, to have it removed.

You can contact the Internet Watch Foundation to report criminal online content.

You can also talk to one of our counsellors to see if they can help take the photo down.

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 how you would 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 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've received. 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 will stop them from sending you more inappropriate pictures.

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 or voicemail) or one that makes you uncomfortable, you should speak to an adult 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.