Sexting is widely becoming used by children and young people as a way to explore their sexuality and intimacy. Not everyone will ‘sext’ but it is important for us to understand the legality and consent around this to ensure that we are doing all we can to keep children safe online.
What is sexting?
Sexting, or sending nudes, is when someone shares a sexual message, naked or semi-naked photo, video or text with another person. Sexts can be sent using phones, tablets and laptops and can be shared across apps, social media and even live streams.
In the UK it is illegal to create and/or share sexual images or videos of a child under 18 years of age, even if the person doing so is a child themselves. This means anyone under the age of 18 that sends, receives or shares pictures of themselves, or another person under 18, they are at risk of being prosecuted. This includes:
Sending sexual messages to a child
A child taking an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend
Sharing an explicit image or video of a child, even if its shared between children of the same age
Having, downloading or storing an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave permission for it to be taken
Having said that, the police won't look to unnecessarily prosecute a child, especially if they have taken photos of themselves. If sexting is reported to the police they may make a record but will likely not take any formal action against the young people and may instead offer advice and support.
If you are worried that your child might be sexting
It is important to talk to your child about the risks of sexting and let them know they can speak to you, or someone, if they are worried about it. It’s important to help them understand that if they do send images/post them online that they will no longer have control over those images.
Ways you can help:
Reassure and offer support
If you find that your child has shared images of themselves try to remain calm and not shout at them
Ask open questions such as ‘tell me what happened’
Open a dialogue about their online activity, including how they treat others online
Remind them that people may not be who they say they are online
Explore the apps that they use together, get them to teach you about them
Contact CEOP at if you are worried about a child sexting
As always, SAFE West Sussex are here to offer support to children and young people across the county of West Sussex. Sexting is just one of the areas we can offer support with. Get in touch today to find out more.