Sexting is sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit images, messages and photographs.

These messages are usually sent using mobiles, tablets, smartphones or laptops - any device that allows you to share media and messages.

Sexting can include:

  • naked pictures or 'nudes'
  • 'underwear shots'
  • sexual or 'dirty pics'
  • rude text messages or videos

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Not all young people ‘sext’. But, there are many reasons why they might, which include:

  • joining in because they think that ‘everyone is doing it’
  • boosting their self-esteem
  • flirting with others and testing their sexual identity
  • exploring their sexual feelings
  • to get attention and connect with new people on social media
  • they may find it difficult to say no if somebody asks them for an explicit image, especially if the person asking is persistent

It is against the law for anyone under the age of 18 to take, share or possess a ‘sext’ of anyone under the age of 18 – even if it’s a selfie.

Once an image is sent the sender loses complete control over what happens to it.

When anyone sends any image or texts it doesn’t just jump straight from a phone to the other phone it is being sent to. Images or videos can find its way to places they might not want it to or fall into hands that they didn’t mean it to.

This can leave young people vulnerable to being blackmailed. An offender might threaten to share the photo or video with the young person’s family and friends unless they pay money or do something else.

If the images are shared young people can experience bullying at school, online and other places, but also if images are shared online young people can experience unwanted attention from people, including sex offenders who search the internet for images such as these.

Young people involved in incidents of sexting can become emotionally distressed. The embarrassment and humiliation can cause various feelings including self-harm and even suicide.

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