Sexting, or sending nudes, is illegal for anyone under the age of 18. Recent research indicates an increase in so-called ‘sexts’ typed out by children during lockdown due to using technology more than ever to stay connected. Separate research published in June 2020 suggests that one in five teenagers admitted they were pressured or blackmailed into sending naked pictures of themselves.
What is sexting?
Sexting is the act of sending, forwarding or receiving of pictures, videos or messages of a sexual nature of any kind, usually sent through a mobile device but which can also apply through email, instant messaging and/or social media sites. This can be sent for several reasons including:
- Pressure from friends
- Flirting with another individual
- As part of an intimate relationship to boost body confidence
- Or even for revenge.
Platforms such as Snapchat can be popular in sexting incidents due to users believing that the image or video can be sent and then will disappear forever, however this is not the case and files can be saved, screenshotted or even recorded.
Almost any app with messaging capabilities can be used as a platform for sexting and they can be sent from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or someone your child has met online.
What is the law on sexting?
Sending, receiving or forwarding an image of a child under the age of 18 is known as Indecent Content and it is illegal to even hold the image or video on your phone or share further.
It is against the law if you share, make, take or distribute an indecent image or video of a child under the age of 18 and is an offence under the Protection of Children Act (1978), The Criminal Justice Act (1988) and under section 67 of the Serious Crime Act (2015).
Why are children under 18 sexting?
Many young people under the age of 18 may not see sexting as a criminal offence but as nothing more than ‘banter’ or an easy way to show interest in someone they may like and trust.
The reasons behind a child under the age of 18 sexting can be innocent, however, even if the images or videos are shared willingly as part of growing up or establishing a relationship, the consequences can cause humiliation and emotional hurt.
Some more vulnerable children may not feel comfortable refusing to take part in sexting and send an image or video due to being forced to under pressure.
What are the risks of sexting?
There are many risks for a child under the age of 18 who is sexting, above the legal complications. A child may instantly have feelings of regret towards what they have sent and, in most cases, the action is not reversable.
If the image that has been shared, this can fall into the wrong hands and be shared further, leading to bullying and harassment and once the image has been shared online, this becomes extremely difficult to trace and remove.
Sexting advice for parents
Using our “What parents need to know about sexting” guide will help you to become more familiar with what sexting is and the additional safety tips you will be able to use to start the conversation with your child.
In most cases, a child may not know that the image or message they are about to send could be illegal so it’s important to have this conversation with them.
If you think your child is already involved in sexting, let your child know you are there to help, stay calm and try not to panic your child.
If possible, try and speak to the person who may have or has shared the image or video and ask them to delete it. Additionally, if this was shared on a website, use the report button.
If you are ever unsure what to do, speak to your school DSL. Depending on school policies they may be able to confiscate mobile phones if they believe a child has illegal sexual content on them.
You can also contact Childline for additional support or report the issue directly to CEOP where you can speak to one of their child protection advisors.
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