Sexting Advice for Professionals

‘Sexting’ is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit text, image or video on their mobile phone, computer or tablet.

It can include sexual chat or requests for pictures/images of a sexual nature. It can be illegal, as it is a crime to possess, take, make, distribute or show anyone an indecent or abusive image of a child/young person under the 18 years of age, but this will depend on what is sent and to whom they are sending it. 

Reasons for 'Sexting'

  • To show off; flirt; prove commitment to a boyfriend/girlfriend. 
  • They may feel under pressure to fit in, or they may be harassed, threatened or blackmailed. 
  • Their judgement is affected by drink or drugs; they may take risks but regret it later.

Prevention

For those working directly with children and young people, the key things you can do are:

  • Be approachable and supportive; let them know they can talk to you about anything; this includes their use of the internet and ‘sexting.’ 
  • Talk to them about the risks:
    • Loss of control of their image/information.
    • Becoming vulnerable to blackmail, bullying or social humiliation.
  • Talk about strategies to manage peer pressure and decline requests.
  • Develop with them a set of guidelines for their behaviour on line; which could include agreement to random checks by you on their phones and equipment. 

If the child/young person has sent or posted a sexually explicit text or image 

Key things to ask

  • Who have they shared it with?
  • Where was it shared?
  • Under what conditions was it shared – e.g. voluntarily, under pressure, under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
  • Are their parents aware and supportive?

Talk to their parents and contact local police for advice and guidance on the next steps. Even if a child/young person has technically committed an offence, the matter will be dealt with sensitively by the Police, who will take into consideration all the circumstances.

If there is a possible criminal offence, then they will advise that the text, image etc is not deleted, as it may be required for their enquiries. Do not show or electronically share it with anyone else, as this in itself is a criminal offence. 

If the Police decide an investigation is not required, things you and their parents can do to support the child/young person:

  • If the child/young person has sent the message or put up the image, they can delete or remove it.
  • Talk with the other young people who may have received the message or image and ask them to delete it. If necessary, also talk to their parents.
  • Inform the child/young person’s school to monitor and help stop images/ videos being shared and to offer them support.
  • Report it to the social networking sites and ask the website to take the image down. The Police may be able to support parents with this.
  • If it has been shared through a mobile phone, ask the provider to change the number.

If the child/young person has shared a sexually explicit text or image because they were forced or coerced by another young person and/or are being blackmailed or bullied

Contact the Police, they may be able to prevent the image being circulated and take appropriate action to safeguard the child/young person.

If the child/young person has received a sexually explicit image of a child/young person (under 18 years of age)

You should contact local Police for advice and guidance. Do not delete the image and under no circumstances should you save the image, send it to another person or show it to anyone else, as you may be committing an offence.

If the child/young person has shared sexually explicit messages or images with an adult or received them from an adult

Report it to the Police and CEOP (see details below). They may have been coerced to send the images. Even if they state that they sent them willingly, the adult may have been grooming the child/young person and others.

Contact Childline or the Internet Watch Foundation to get them removed.

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