Photo: Home Office Disrespect NoBody campaign
What is sexting?
Sexting is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit text, image or video. This includes sending ‘nude pics’, ‘rude pics’ or ‘nude selfies’.
It’s important to make sure your child is aware that:
- It is never acceptable to pressure someone to send a ‘sext’ or ‘nude selfie’.
- If they are being pressured, this is not ok and they should speak to someone they trust for support. There is a helpful Q&A on the Disrespect NoBody website to help answer some common sexting questions.
- If they have sent something and they are worried, there is help on hand. Tell them they can always come to you for support, or explore the other adults they could tell or places they could gain online support.
- Taking, possessing or sharing a sexually explicit picture or video of someone under 18 is against the law. It doesn’t matter if they gave you permission, someone else sent it to you, you’ve never met them before, you are under 18 too or it’s a selfie. You and anyone else involved could be investigated by the police, and this could even affect your future education and employment.
How are people pressured into sending nude or explicit pictures?
Those pressuring them may:
- Make them feel like everyone is doing it.
- Call them names like ‘frigid’ to bully them into sending one.
- Subject them to emotional pressure so they feel guilty if they don’t want to. This can include being told things like ‘if you loved me you would’ or ‘I sent you one so you owe me’.
- Threaten them with consequences if they don’t. For example, threatening to ‘out’ someone as gay or bi-sexual if they don’t send a pic.
What are the potential consequences of sexting?
Once an image or photo has been shared, it can be difficult to control what then happens to it:
- Another person could share the photo with other people, or post it online, which means anyone could see it (e.g. family, friends, teachers, even future employers).
- In extreme cases, it could be used to blackmail the sender into sending more photos or videos.
- If the relationship ends, the images could be shared, as a way to humiliate the former partner.
- It could lead to a range of other consequences, including bullying or unwanted attention from others.
- Legal consequences under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and/or the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
What does the law say about sexting?
- If your teenager (under 18 years old) is taking, sending or sharing explicit images, they are breaking the law:
- If you have any indecent images or videos of somebody who is under the age of 18 you would technically be in possession of an indecent image of a child, even if you are the same age. This is an offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
- Sending sexual photos or videos: if you are under 18 and you send, upload or forward indecent images or videos onto your friends or partner, this would be breaking the law, even if they are photos of you.
However, the law is not intended to criminalise children when this is not in the public interest. If your child has been involved in consensual image sharing with another young person, you can be confident that you can seek help without this leading to criminal charges.
Find out more:
The Disrespect NoBody website hosts advice and guidance on relationship abuse, sexting, consent and pornography, along with the contact details of organisations that support teenagers and their families on these issues.
The Home Office Disrespect NoBody campaign helps young people to:
- understand what a healthy relationship is.
- re-think their views of abuse, consent and controlling behaviour in relationships.
It aims to prevent the onset of domestic violence in teen and adult relationships by challenging attitudes and behaviours amongst young people that abuse in relationships is acceptable.
ChildLine has a free app called Zipit for young people. It hosts handy tips to help them take control of the situation when someone’s trying to get them to send naked images.
The National Crime Agency’s CEOP education programme called Thinkuknow holds advice on abusive or exploitative relationships, the online world, sex and relationships.
Further guidance for parents:
Many of the organisations on the Disrespect NoBody website also provide support for parents. Extra advice can be found on:
For further materials on the Disrespect NoBody campaign, please visit gov.uk