The NSPCC has described the risks around sexting:
It’s easy to send a photo or message but the sender has no control about how it’s passed on.
When images are stored or shared online, they become public. Some people may think that images and videos only last a few seconds on social media and then they’re deleted, but they can still be saved or copied by others. This means that photos or videos, which a young person may have shared privately, could still be end up being shared between adults they don’t know.
Sexting can leave you vulnerable to the following:
- Blackmail – an offender may threaten to share the pictures with the child’s family and friends unless the child sends money or more images
- Bullying – if images are shared with their peers or in school, the child may be bullied
- Unwanted attention – images posted online can attract the attention of sex offenders, who know how to search for, collect and modify images
- Emotional distress – children can feel embarrassed and humiliated. If they’re very distressed this could lead to suicide or self-harm.
This video is a true story about a girl called Kayleigh from Leicestershire. The video is about her receiving a message from a stranger, and then being groomed, raped and killed two weeks later. It is a hard-hitting video but I think more relatable – this could always go in a separate ‘talking to strangers’ section – but I think it may fit well under ‘sexting’ too.
What does the law say?
Sexting can be seen as harmless but creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, even if the person doing it is a child. A young person is breaking the law if they:
- Take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend
- Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it’s shared between children of the same age
- Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.
However, as of January 2016 in England and Wales, if a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed but that taking formal action isn’t in the public interest.
Childline have some very good resources on their website:
Who to contact if you are worried about sexting?
If you feel you are being pressured, you should talk to an adult that you can confide in. Whether this is a parent, a family friend or a teacher, telling someone can help you get the support you need to stop this.
You can contact Childline via their website:
You can sign up for a Childline account on the website to be able to message a counsellor anytime without using your email address. If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, email, or chat online about any problem big or small.
Freephone 24h helpline: 0800 1111
If you feel you are in danger or messaging someone dangerous, contact the Metropolitan Police on 999.