Advice for young people

Sexting and adult content

Phone illustration

What is sexting?

Sexting is when someone sends or receives a text, photo or video that shows or describes something sexual. This might be a dirty text message, naked picture, underwear shot or video of someone performing a sexual act.

The consequences of sexting

Sexting is rarely a private, harmless act. Once a sext has been sent, you no longer have any actual control of where it ends up. And as most people don't want it shared, you also put a lot of power into the person who holds it. Before you think about sexting, consider the following very real consequences.

Public humiliation

No matter how much you trust somebody now, people fall out and split up even in the most unlikely of cases. If they still have your message, they may no longer feel obliged to keep it a secret. It might even be shared by accident, for example if a phone or computer is confiscated or stolen, or someone sees it and shares it without consent.

Bullying and exclusion

Sexts that get shared publicly can make others judge you unfairly, and think that you are someone you are not. So even if it seems like everyone is doing it, when a sext goes public, people often turn nasty. Girls in particular can suffer badly - being called a 'slut' or 'easy'. Sexts that are shared online are also often the catalysts for cyber bullying. This means that you may end up being targeted by complete strangers around the clock.  If you are experiencing cyber bullying, please read the advice within our dealing with cyber bullying section. 

Ruined reputation

If your sext does end up online, not only can it be seen by millions of people worldwide, it is near impossible to erase. One image may end up haunting you for a long time, and be dragged up by future employers, universities and colleges.

Pressure and guilt  

If you send a sext once, the person who received it might expect more, and try to make you feel guilty if you want to stop. It is likely they will also expect you to be sexual with them physically. Remember that the cyber world is the real world. Never promise or suggest that you will do things that you would never do in person. 

If you are under the age of 18 and are being pressurised to sext someone who is a lot older than you, talk to a trusted adult right away. You should also report them on the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre website. 


If someone nasty gets hold of your sext it can make them feel very powerful, which may open you up to blackmail. Don't fall into their trap, report to your parents and the school immediately. Follow the steps outlined in my sext has gone viral

Legal charges

You may not realise this, but if you spread sexual images of a person under the age of 18, you could be charged for circulating indecent images of children - even if the image is of you. This can result in serious legal consequences that will follow you for the rest of your life.

Remember: If you wouldn't want your parents, everyone at school, teachers, the police or future employers to see it, don't send it!

The consequences of sexting should not be taken lightly. Watch 'Exposed' by the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre; a short film showing just what could happen.


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