Sexting

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 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'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 speak to a Childline counsellor about having 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.

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

Contacting websites directly and making a report

If you’re under 18 and an indecent or nude pic of you is posted online, that is illegal. But we can help. If you’re willing to share your details with us and confirm your identity, we can make a report to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) who will contact the website to try and remove it without anyone else being involved. The IWF tries to remove any illegal images posted online. Reporting what’s happened with a counsellor means we can protect your identity and stop anyone else finding out.

Making a report can be scary, but our counsellors are here to support you and we won’t pass on your information without your permission.

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.

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, 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.

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.

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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.

Watch: how to spot the signs of online grooming and what to do if you're worried