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Children & young people

'Sexting' and 'Nudes'

‘Sexting’ is a term used to describe the sharing of intimate images or video with another person.

This content can be anything from texts, partial nudity right up to sexual images or video. Very often it is between partners, but can be between groups and can use a whole range of devices, technologies and online spaces. The most common ones are by text, private message on social networks or apps such as Kik, Oovoo, Instagram or Skype.

Most sexting is deliberate; the person sending the content means it to happen. They will pose or act in a sexual way and will make a direct effort to send it to the person they want to see it, usually a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Occasionally, if you have personal pictures of yourself on your phone it might be possible to accidentally “share” it via email, text or Bluetooth with the wrong person but this is unusual. There have also been cases where pictures have been spread after mobile phones have been stolen. Accidental sexting is more likely to happen if your judgement is clouded e.g. if you have had alcohol or taken drugs or are under pressure from those around you.

Nonetheless, most of the time, these intimate pictures are shared between boyfriend and girlfriend, and let’s be honest, you wouldn’t send them if you didn’t trust the other person would you? There are probably many images shared which never leave the intended recipient, even when the relationship ends. So ask yourself, if we break up, will this person respect me enough not to share my pictures? How well do you really know them? Sadly, it is often only when we split up with someone that we see their true colours.

It is not uncommon for boyfriends or girlfriends to share private images of their partners with their mates to show off, brag or get ‘revenge’.  This is one of the more common ways that intimate images get spread and why you should think hard before you hit send.

What should I do if I’ve shared a picture online/in a message that I’m worried about?

It depends how the image was published; if you sent it directly to someone’s mobile and then had second thoughts, you need to have an honest conversation with them as soon as possible to get them to delete it.

However, if the picture has already started spreading out of control you should:

Try not to panic! Take a deep breath and give yourself a chance to think about how this might affect you.

First off, are you OK? Do you need support? If you do, find the best person to support you right now... friends, family, school? You choose. There is also a list of organisations at the bottom of this page that can help.

Sometimes that first step of asking for help is a difficult one. But you have to be honest with yourself. Real friends and professionals trying to help are only able to do so when they know all the facts and how you feel about it.

If you’re image has ended up on social media you can challenge content about you that has been published by others using the site’s “report abuse” option. It’s important to draw their attention to it and why you think it should be removed. It’s not enough to say “I don’t like it”; your request needs to show that it breaks their terms and conditions of use. Sites like Facebook and Instagram don’t allow nudity so it should be easier to report.

If you decide you need to do something, don’t wait. The quicker you deal with it the better chance there is of managing the spread.

Contact Details/Help

‘So You Got Naked Online’: Most of this information has come from a document called ‘So you got Naked Online’ so for more details and further information you should try reading it yourself.

Parents: It may be your worst nightmare thinking of telling your parents you shared intimate pictures, but they need to know; how are they going to support you if they don’t know? Yes, they could be very upset and disappointed, but they’ll get over it! And will probably respect you more for being upfront about it.

School: You might want to consider telling someone at school. It might seem like a hard thing to do but your welfare is their number one concern. Trained staff will have access to a whole range of help that will be much more effective than dealing with it on your own. One service they can use is the Professionals Online Safety Helpline www.saferinternet.org.uk/helpline

CEOP: CEOP is the Child Exploitation Online Protection centre and was set up by the Government in 2006 to help protect children online across the UK from online predators. As well as helping UK police forces to bring these people to justice, CEOP can help provide advice to you and your parents when something like this happens. You can report at the CEOP website at www.ceop.police.uk.

Childline: You can always contact Childline on 0800 1111 to talk about getting help.