What is sexting? (Youth Produced Sexual Imagery)

Sexting is the word used to describe the sharing of personal sexual content electronically. The word is a combination of ‘sex’ and ‘texting’.

Why do people sext?

Sexting is usually deliberate (i.e. people choose to do it) and is often when someone takes an intimate or sexually explicit image of themselves and sends it to another person (for example a boyfriend or girlfriend). Although it’s completely natural for young people to want to explore their own sexual identity and their relationships, sexting can be really risky and have very serious consequences.

Sexting and the law

If anyone under the age of 18 is sexting (i.e. sending indecent images of themselves), they’re also breaking the law. You can find out more about sexting and the law on the Think You Know website but in brief it’s a criminal offence to:

  • TAKE an indecent image of someone under the age of 18 (which includes someone taking an image of themselves).
  • MAKE an indecent image of someone under 18 (i.e. copy it or save it to another device).
  • SEND an indecent image of someone 18 to another person.
  • ASK someone under 18 to take an indecent image of themselves.
  • HAVE an indecent image of someone under 18.

As a parent a good thing to remember about the law is that it is there to protect young people from harm and from being exploited and it’s not designed to punish them for making genuine mistakes.That said, every case is different and is always dealt with based on the circumstances and facts involved.

Talking with your child about sexting

Talking about sex isn’t always easy. Like lots of things though it’s better to talk about a subject beforeanything happens.Many children and young people don’t fully understand the laws about sexting or some of the consequences.One way to have the conversation at home is to watch and then talk about Exposed (short film) by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

More information about sexting

The Childline website has some great information for children and young people about sexting but it’s a good read for parents too.There are a number of resources for children and parents on sexting and we would always recommend that people search online and speak with others to find good quality information themselves. We think that these resources are also really helpful:

Zipit!

Peer pressure can be powerful stuff so Childnet has also created the Zipit App to help children and young people keep flirty chat on the right track.

Online sexual chat

If someone is making your child feel uncomfortable about sex you can report them to CEOP. This might be someone:

  • chatting online with your child about sex
  • asking your child to do sexual things on a webcam
  • asking your child to send sexual images of themselves
  • trying to get your child to meet up with them offline

If this is happening make a report to CEOP. You can also contact Devon and Cornwall Police on telephone 101 (non emergency calls) or 999 (emergency calls only).

What is CEOP?

CEOP is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Team within the National Crime Agency. They exist to help children and young people who are being approached online about sex or being sexually abused.