This article was written by a young person as part of our #YouDeserve: Healthy Relationships Campaign. To find out more about the campaign click here.
With the rise of accessible technology, sexting has become increasingly popular particularly among young people. But do you know all you should about sexting? #YouDeserve to make informed choices about what you do, so make sure you stay safe by reading this article!
What is sexting?
Sexting is when sexual photographs, videos or messages are sent to friends, romantic partners or even to strangers online. Sexting includes:
- Sending or sharing images and videos where the sender or somebody else is partly or fully naked, often referred to as ‘nudes’.
- Sending, receiving or sharing sexually explicit text messages, emails or voice notes.
- Performing sexual acts on a live stream, webcam or video call.
Sexting is legal for adults over 18. However, it is not legal for these images to be shared without the sender’s consent. If you are under 18, it is illegal to send, receive or share sexual content including texts, emails, photographs and videos.
Can I ask someone to sext?
It might be tempting to ask to sext or to be sent a nude if you’re exploring your sexuality or are in a relationship. However, it’s always important to consider how the other person may feel if they were asked. If you’d like to explore sexting, make sure that you consider these things first:
- Age – It’s against the law to ask someone who’s under 18 to send nudes, even if you’re under 18 too.
- Feelings – Being asked to sext or send a nude can make someone feel worried, scared or uncomfortable. Think about how you would feel if somebody encouraged you to do something that you didn’t feel comfortable with.
- Risks – Asking someone to sext may make them feel uncomfortable or upset, which could have an impact on your relationship with them. Even if you sext, once a message is sent, you have lost control of it and may not know who else will see it.
What are the risks of sexting?
There are a lot of risks when it comes to sexting. Once a message, video or image has been sent, the sender has lost control of what happens to it. Remember, these things could happen:
- The sender or receiver could be arrested and charged. Sexting under the age of 18 is illegal. This includes sending images or videos of yourself and forwarding on to others.
- The person who received it could show and send it to whoever they want.
- The sender could become a victim of bullying and revenge. People can use images, videos, voice notes and messages to hurt or embarrass the sender.
- Friends may not want to hang out with the sender or be associated with them anymore.
- The person who received it could manipulate, blackmail and exploit the sender.
Why do people sext?
Despite the risks, there are many reasons why sexting is increasingly common in young people. Let’s take a look at some reasons why people sext:
“It’s the norm” – Quite often, people think that sexting is common and that everyone is doing it, so they feel like they should too.
“It’s enjoyable” – For some people, sexting is a fun way to explore your sexuality online.
“It gives me confidence” – People may find that sexting makes them feel happier about their bodies and gives them a boost of confidence. People who sext may like the attention they receive immediately after sending a photo, video or message.
“I felt that I had to” – People can be encouraged or pressured to take part in sexting, particularly when it involves sexual images and videos. Remember, sexting should be consensual between people over the age of 18. Pressure to send nudes can look like:
- Being worried that you won’t be liked if you don’t.
- Being repeatedly asked to take part.
- Being made to feel guilty.
- Being called names such as ‘cold’ or ‘frigid’.
- Being offered to be bought gifts or sent money.
What should I do if I feel pressured to sext?
Sexting should be consensual between people aged 18 or older. It’s not okay for somebody to make you feel pressured to sext. If somebody won’t stop messaging you for nudes or are sending inappropriate messages, images, or videos, you can keep yourself and other young people safe by blocking and reporting them.
If you don’t feel like that you can do this as you’re in a relationship with the person, try explaining how you feel. Part of being in a healthy relationship is being able to openly communicate how you feel without being scared or worried.
Even though some people say that they are sexting, know that they might not be. Remember that a good friend or partner will not make you do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.
What can I do if I’ve shared a nude?
If you’ve taken part in sexting and are worried about what might happen, there are a few things that you can do:
- Ask for the message to be deleted – Explain to the person that you sent it to that you’re not comfortable with them keeping the picture, video or messages, and ask them to delete it.
- Ignore the threats – Don’t reply to someone trying to threaten or blackmail you, and don’t send more photos. It can be scary, but it can help you to keep in control.
- Talk to someone you trust – Talking to someone about sexting can be scary, especially if you’re being threatened. However, there are people who can support and help you through the situation. It’s always good to talk!
- Report the incident to CEOP – If you’re under 18 and you’re worried or being threatened, you can make a report to CEOP. Making a report isn’t confidential but it does mean that they can help to stop what’s happening.
- Get help with how you’re feeling – Having a nude shared by other people or being threatened isn’t your fault. If you’re struggling to cope or you don’t know what to do, contact a helpline listed below.
If you’d like more information, guidance and support about sexting, check out these useful links:
- THINKUKNOW – THINKUKNOW provides an array of information about protecting children and young people both online and offline.
- CEOP – If you’re worried about online sexual abuse or the way that someone has been communicating with you online, make a report with CEOP.
- ZipIt – If you’re happy to flirt over text but something crosses the line and makes you feel uncomfortable, ZipIt might be able to help. ZipIt is a free mobile application created by ChildLine that is available to download from the Google Play store or App store. The app helps to get flirty chat back on track if someone’s trying to get you to sext. Use the selection of GIF’s in the Zipit app to keep the situation under control.
This article is part of the Healthy Relationships campaign. If you would like to read more about the Healthy Relationships campaign and see more content including information and support for young people’s experiences, click here.
If you want help or advice about relationships, or if there’s anything else worrying you, then you can call Meic and speak to a friendly advisor. Meic is an information and advocacy helpline open from 8am to midnight, 7 days a week, for children and young people aged in Wales.