Sexting is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit text, image or video on their mobile phone, usually in a text message. 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.
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.
The sharing of naked pictures is not a new thing but the speed with which you can share and the amount of people that can access the pictures has dramatically increased as a result of the online world.
- It's not harmless - taking, sharing or receiving an image, even voluntarily, can have a long-lasting negative impact such as blackmail and bullying to name a few.
- It's illegal - by sending an explicit image, a young person is producing and distributing child abuse images and risks being prosecuted, even if the picture is taken and shared with their permission.
- No control - it's easy to send a photo or message but you have no control about how it's passed on. Anyone can see the image, save it or copy it to other people. Do you want everyone seeing that picture of you?
- Reputation damage - as you don't know who sees it, your reputation could be damaged by this type of content if friends, family, schools, future employers do see it. You may feel you can trust the person you have sent it to but something so personal can affect your life and emotional wellbeing if it did get out.
What to do if it happens to you
- Stay calm and act quickly: If you are worried about an issue of sexting the quicker you act the easier it is to manage the distribution of the content.
- Talk to someone: It can be hard asking for help but in a situation like this it is really important. Family, professionals and friends want to make sure you are safe. In order for them to help you they need to know all of the facts so be honest and let them know what happened and how you are feeling.
- Will I get in trouble with the police? The Association of Chief Police Officers have stated that young people will be treated as victims and that sexting needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis.
What to do if it happens to your child
- Try to remain calm and supportive.
- Reassure your child that they are not alone.
- Listen and offer support - if there is a problem your child will be feeling bad and needs your help, support and advice, not criticism.
- Try not to shout or make your child feel like it is their fault.
- Don't ask questions like "why have you done it", as your child will feel embarrassed and guilty.
- Ask your child what they want to happen - this will depend on the situation but take immediate steps where possible; and reassure your child that the issue will be addressed even if you need a little time to work out the best course of action for the long term.
- Agree a set of actions to address the issue, such as reporting the abuse or getting additional counselling.
- If you have a trusted friend it may be helpful to discuss this with them.
- Call the NSPCC helpline to talk to one of their trained counsellors.
- Tell your child they can phone ChildLine on 0800 1111 for additional support.
Where to get help and advice
This can be a stressful and emotional situation for those involved, so it's important to know that help and advice is available:
- So you got naked online - despite its name this is a useful resource by childnet designed for young people to use as well as parents.
- Hot topics - Sexting - this is another useful resource developed by childnet outlining the law, risks, and most importantly - what to do next, and where you can get help.
- If you are worried that you or your child have been bullied or groomed into sending inappropriate images you need to make a report to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection).
- Childline also has some useful information about sexting and you can always speak in confidence to ChildLine or call them on 0800 1111
If you are concerned about someone please report it.