Advice for young people

My sext has gone viral - what now?

Phone illustration

So the worst has happened, and your sext has been shared with others. Although this will be extremely upsetting, try to stay level headed. If you act quickly, you can gain back control and minimise the impact. Just follow the steps below. 

Tell your parents or guardians

This will not be the most enjoyable task, but until it's done, the situation will only get worse. They might be disappointed or angry for a short while, but this will be a far better deal than the alternative. If your picture continues to be spread, the consequences will be severe.

Report to the school

Go with your parents to report the incident to your teacher or head of year. By doing this as soon as possible you can limit the amount of people who see it. If you know who has had access to the sext, give the names to the teacher. They will be able to confiscate and search the contents of their phones. If they are found to have the image, they will be forced to delete it and punished.

Show evidence of cyber bullying

If your sext has been shared online, screen shot the evidence. Capture profile names, actions and comments of people involved and give these to the school. They are legally obliged to protect its students from bullying, even if it happens outside of school or online. Visit the dealing with cyber bullying section for more information.

Don't hold back

Now it is out in the open don't leave any stone unturned. When reporting to the school tell them the whole story, as if people are still in possession of your image, it might happen again in the future. Don't protect those who were involved. Anybody who is worth having as a friend will be on your side.

Stop all communications

If people have been bothering you via text, phone call or online, block their numbers or profiles from being able to communicate with you further. Keep your social media accounts private to ensure only trusted friends can gain access to your accounts in the future.

Remove images

If your sext has been shared online, for example on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, you can report the users to the website administrators. They will be able to caution or block the user from the site, and remove all retrievable traces of the sext. However, please remember that once an image is shared, it can be difficult to remove it completely.

Learn from the experience

It is by no means your fault that your sext has been shared - you trusted someone with it and they failed you. However, as with all bad experiences (whether they are our fault or not), there are lessons to be learnt. No matter how others may make you feel, sexting is not a necessary part of a relationship. There are so many other ways you can express your feelings in person.

Remember: If you wouldn't want your parents, peers, teacher, the police or future employers to see it, don't send it!

The South West Grid for Learning offers further advice. Take a look at their excellent factsheet, So you got naked online.

Related advice

Dealing with cyber bullying
The consequences of sexting
Moving away from frenemies

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