What are sexts?
Sexting is the sending of messages, pictures or videos of a sexual nature, which could include:
- Photos/videos where you’re only wearing underwear,
- Nude/naked photos or videos,
- Sexualised or ‘dirty’ images or videos,
- Live-streaming yourself naked or doing sexual things,
- Sexualised messages (even without images or videos).
You may have heard of other people sending messages like these, perhaps your friends or others at school/college. The important thing to remember is that not everyone is doing it and that even if they were, that doesn’t mean you have to!
Most people who sext do so to their boyfriend or girlfriend but that’s not always the case.
What’s the risk?
As with all things shared online, once it’s out there, you have no control over it. Someone could screenshot it or forward it on. They may even threaten to do so in order to intimidate you or to pressure you into sending more. Perhaps when you first send the image, you think you can trust the person that you are sending it to but it’s worth considering whether you really can trust them … how do you know they are who they say they are? What would happen if you were to fall out in the future? What happens if their phone is hacked or stolen?
As well as the risk of the sext ending up being seen by people who you wouldn’t want to see it, there’s also the law to consider.
The law on sexting
Naked or sexual images and videos of anyone under the age of 18 are illegal to take, share, possess or send and are considered to be child abuse by law even if they’re of you and on your own devices! The police do have some discretion in cases where there are no worrying circumstances but it’s worth remembering what the law says. The police are unlikely to use discretion in cases where:
- There is a big age difference between the person sending and receiving the sext,
- There is evidence of blackmail or pressure on someone to send a sext,
- Either the sender or the recipient is under 13,
- Money or gifts have been provided for sending a sext,
- There has been previous police involvement with either party for similar offences.
What can I do if I have already sent a sext?
If you have sent a sext and you are worried or regretting it, the first thing to do is to ask the person you sent it to, to delete it. Ideally watch them to do it so that you can be sure that they have. You could also talk to someone you trust such as a parent or teacher for example.
If you do start receiving threats regarding the sext or are pressured for more, don’t reply to the messages. You should report the matter to the police as soon as possible.
What can I do if I am being pressured to send sexts?
Being pressured into sexting or sending nudes can be difficult to deal with and can come in many forms. You may feel that if you don’t send a sext:
- You won’t be liked as much,
- That the person who is asking for them will move on to someone else,
- That the person won’t stop asking until you send something,
- That you don’t want upset the person or let them down,
- That you will get into trouble or be hurt.
The most important thing to remember is that you should never feel pressured into sending something that you don’t feel comfortable sending. If someone truly cares about you, they won’t mind if you don’t feel that you want to send a sext.
You could try explaining to the person that you don’t want to send a sext and that you feel uncomfortable or not ready to do so. If they keep pressuring you and asking anyway, you could block them and report them. If you’re still concerned or it keeps happening, you should report the matter to the police who will be able to investigate and deal with the person involved.
More advice and support around sexting and online safety is available on our Sources of Support page.
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