For Children

What is sexting?

Sexting generally refers to sending sexually explicit images or messages via text, social media or direct messages. For example, it could be a picture of a boy or young man exposing himself or a young woman not wearing clothes.

There are many reasons why young people take such pictures and send them to someone else. Two young people who are in a relationship may want to show their love or commitment to each other. They may have been pressured by someone, possibly the person they are sending them to, to share a sexual image of themselves.

The major concern about young people making sexually explicit images of themselves is that the images may be passed on to friends or posted on a social media platform without consent. This can lead to social and emotional consequences for both the person in the image and the person who posted it. It can also include distress, humiliation and reputational damage, as well as online and offline peer-to-peer harassment and unwanted sexual advances.

Social context

Many young people today are comfortable recording and sharing their lives on social media and are also used to seeing similar content from friends, celebrities and influencers.

This content can include pictures of themselves, status updates and messaging friends or group chats… While this ‘share everything’ culture has some benefits, it can create an environment where teens and young people make impulsive decisions without thinking about the possible consequences of their actions.

Many times, they are just a click away from doing something they wouldn’t normally consider doing in the real world.

The consequences

Sending sexually explicit messages or images has the potential to cause problems for the sender and can have serious consequences if the content is shared with others – either by forwarding it or uploading it to social networks. This could have immediate consequences, possibly in the school environment and within their friend group.