What is sexting?

Sexting means sending sexual pictures or videos, or sending sexual messages. Sexting is commonly known as “trading nudes”, “dirties” or “pic for pic”.

Examples include:

  • naked pictures
  • topless pictures of a girl
  • pictures of genitals
  • sex acts including masturbation
  • sexual pictures in underwear.

Sexting can be done on anything that lets you share media or messages, including: smartphones, tablets, laptops or mobiles.

What does the law say?

It is against the law to make, share, have or show any indecent images of anyone aged under 18, even if you have their permission.

For example, it is against the law for you to:

  • share a sexual image with your friend
  • share a sexual image created by somebody else with your friend or an adult
  • have a sexual image of someone under 18 in your possession

The police have to treat sexting by children as a crime, but from January 2016 the police can decide not to take legal action against a young person if it is not in the public interest to do this.

What can a school do about sexting?

By law, schools must have a child protection policy which covers sexting. Schools should look into any reports of sexting and speak to you and your parents to try to solve the problem.

If you are feeling pressured or bullied in school about sexting, your school has to help. For more information on what a school should be doing see Bullying.

The school may contact the police and/or Children’s Services if you have been harmed or are at risk of harm. For more information, see Child Services.

Schools can search pupils for electronic devices and search data on devices and delete any indecent images on there. For more information, see Can I be searched at school.

How can I get sexting images removed from the internet?

The Internet Watch Foundation can remove any sexual images from the internet, you can report any images here.

Where can I get further support?

The following organisations can provide practical support: