You may have heard adults use the word 'sexting', but you might have heard other young people say 'sending nudes' or 'sending pics.'
What is sexting?
Sexting = sending or sharing sexually explicit images of yourself or others, using technology.
What else does 'sexting' describe?
Sexting can happen in a number of different ways. It is used to describe:
- a person sharing their own nude image with someone else, becasue they want to;
- a person sharing their own nude image with someone else, because they feel pressured to do so;
- a person receiving the nude image of someone else, and sharing it with one or lots of other people, without the orginal sender's permssion;
- a person might find a nude image of somone online and share it with other people, pretending it is a person they know.
These images can be created using a range of different devices, technologies and online spaces. Photos and videos are often created via phones, tablets or webcams, and may be shared via messaging apps or social media sites.
Why do people send nudes?
Some young people tell us that taking and sending nude images makes them feel more confident about themselves and about their bodies, and can be a way to explore new relationships with others. However, when instances of sexting happen without the permission of the original sender, it can make people feel betrayed, embarassed, upset and disrespected, which is never okay.
There are instances where a person might have sent their nude image to someone, but didn't really want to. For example, it might be that someone pressures or coerces someone into sending a nude image, or that they felt they had to send one to fit in or be accepted.
It is also possible that a nude image gets shared online that people say is a particular person they know, but in fact it is a nude image of an unknown person, found online, and someone else's name has been linked to it.
The sharing of nude images is not a new thing but the speed with which they can be shared and the potential audience size has dramatically changed as a result of the online world.
Is everybody sending nudes?
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No! It might sound like everyone is doing it, but that's not usually the case. The private nature of nude photos can mean lots of gossip and rumours get shared about them, which might make it sound like sending nudes is more common than it is.
What is the law?
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There is a law called the Protection of Children Act 1978. This Act states that anyone who creates of an indecent image of a child under 18 (e.g. a nude or nearly nude photo) breaks the law. Sending an image like that, or saving an image like that, also breaks the law.
The National Police Chiefs' Council of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have stated that young people engaging in sexting should not face prosecution, especially for first time incidents, but should receive help and support.
The situation will still be investigated to ensure that the young people involved are not at risk of further harm. Repeat offences and more extreme cases are reviewed differently, still with a focus on avoiding prosecution unless absolutely necessary.
What other risks are there?
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Other than the law, there are other risks to emotional well being and reputation.
- Emotional well being: It can be really upsetting for someone if their nude image is 'leaked' and shared beyond the person they intended it for without their permission. This is especially true if the image is shared by someone the sender used to trust. Others who see the image may think it's okay to blame, embarass, or bully the person in the nude photo, which of course, it is not. The person in the photo may feel a negative impact on their self-esteem and their emotions.
- Reputation: Images and videos can be shared very far, very quickly when online. It can be diffcult to know for certain where an image goes, where it is saved and where it might reappear in the future. People such as future employers, universities, colleges or friends may make an unfair judgement about someone if a nude image is linked to their online reputation. On the other hand, if someone's involvement in sharing someone else's nude forms part of their online reputation, this does not show them to be a trustworthy person.
It happened...What should I do next?
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- Talk to someone: It can feel difficult asking for help, but in a situation like this, it is really important. Family, school/college staff and friends all want to make sure you are safe, and okay. In order for them to help you they need to know what's happened and what you are worried about. Try to explain everything that has gone on and let them know how you are feeling too. As well as helping to manage the situation, just talking about the problem out loud can make you feel a lot better.
- Don't blame yourself: Having a nude or private image shared without your permission is never your fault. Someone esle has betrayed your trust, and behaved in a way that is not acceptable.
- Use reporting tools: If you come across your nude image online, you can report it and flag that it needs to be taken down. Apps, games and websites need to follow the law too, and they should not host an image that breaks the law. Click here to find out how to make a report on different sites and services. Remember to seek help from someone in person too.
Who can help me?
- Parents and carers: in order for them to support you they need to know that something has happened. Try not to be embarrassed, be honest and let them know how you are feeling
- Teachers or other adults at school or college
- The local police
- If you are worried that you have been groomed or coerced into sending the content, make a report to CEOP
- Remember, you can always speak in confidence to ChildLine or call them on 0800 1111