Sexting is becoming increasingly common. It is the sharing of sexually explicit or inappropriate images, videos or messages either online or via mobile phones. It can be shared between partners, friends and strangers.

Whether it’s to your boyfriend or girlfriend or someone you’ve met online, a quick snap can have long term consequences.

There are lots of reasons you may send naked or semi naked images or videos (nudes) of yourself,

These include:

  • Flirting with someone you’re interested in
  • Having fun with friends
  • For sexual enjoyment and intimacy as part of a your relationship
  • To get positive comments from others because you have low body confidence
  • Being pressured from your friends or a partner

It’s important to talk to be aware of the risks of sexting as taking pics of your bits and sending them to someone else is never a good idea.

Being pressured to send a nude is never okay. Everyone has the right to say ‘no’ if someone asks them to them to do something they’re not comfortable with.

If you are worried about a nude you’ve already sent, there are steps you can take to help the situation.

The law

Even if a picture or video is taken and sent with a person’s permission, sexting by people under 18 is illegal. This is because it is essentially creating, sharing and keeping indecent content of a child. This law is, first and foremost, there to protect young people.

Long Term Problems

Explicit content is easy to save, even if they are sent via ‘private’ apps that imply that images and videos ‘self destruct’ after a certain amount of time.  You may trust the person you send it to now not to share it further, this may change in future. It could end up in the wrong hands and shared online, where its not in your control. There is always the risk the contact may become public.

Your emotional wellbeing

Photos, messages or videos can end up shared without your consent and you can be bullied about them. This can lead to you feeling difficult emotions like distress or embarrassment and shame, especially if it is shared by someone you trusted. Think about your reputation both now and in the future.

Someone who respects and cares about you should never make you feel bad for saying no.

There are a few different ways you can say ‘no’ - choose whichever way you’re most comfortable with.

Here are some suggestions for what you could say in different situations:

  • Someone you're in a relationship with. Let them know you’re not comfortable. If they respect and care about you, they should understand. 
  • Someone you know and like, but are not in a relationship with. It might feel easier to say no in a funny way, like sending a GIF or meme. 
  • Someone you don’t know. Ignore, block and report them, so they can’t continue to contact you.

Ask the person to delete it. In most cases, the person you sent the image to won’t want to share it any further. If you have shared something but now the thought of someone having it makes you feel uncomfortable, have an honest conversation with them and ask them to delete it.

Speak to a trusted adult. If you feel worried about a picture you’ve sent, talk to someone about what’s happened. We know this can feel embarrassing, but an adult will be able to help. If you feel as though there isn’t anyone you can tell, you can speak to a counsellor at Childline confidentially by calling 0800 1111.

Get help to take it down. If the picture has been posted online, and whoever posted it won’t delete it, report it and the social networking site should take it down. Social networks don’t allow naked images of people under 18. If you are under 18 and worried a sexual image or video of you may have been shared online, you can also use the Report Remove tool. This helps young people to report an image or video that has been shared online and see if it is possible to get it removed. Young people are kept informed at every stage of the process.

Get help from CEOP. If someone pressured you to send a picture, or is now threatening you, it is never too late to get help. This is a crime and you can report it to CEOP using an online form. Do not feel embarrassed, CEOP deal with lots of cases like this every day and they will know how to help you. They will not judge you or blame you in any way.

Remember - the law is there to protect young people. Naked images of under 18s are illegal, but you will not be in trouble with the police if someone has made you share an image of yourself.  The law was created to protect young people, not get them into trouble.

If any of the above is something you are worried about or is something that has affected you, there are many people you can talk to for support. This includes teachers, parents, your school nurse, Childline, CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) or the police.

For more information and advice about sexting, staying safe online, and sex and relationships, visit the Think U Know website.

If you are concerned that you have been groomed or pressured into sending content to someone over 18 then it’s important that you make a report to the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. Their aim is to make sure that you stay safe online and don’t do anything that you don’t feel comfortable with.

If you are a parent and you are concerned about sexting then you can find information and advice on the NSPCC website.