Sexting

‘Sexting’ (‘sex’ + ‘texting’) means using technology (mobile phone messages, Facebook, Snapchat, emails) to send or receive sexy or nude images or videos.

Some people like to use sexting as an expression of their sexuality, but it’s important to be aware of the risks involved so that you can be fully informed before deciding to press send.

young person holding a phone

What are the laws?

Under the Australian law it is illegal to use your phone or internet to take, keep, look at, send, or ask someone to send sexual images or videos of anyone who is under 18 years of age (or anyone who looks under the age of 18). This law applies even if the photo or video is of yourself or if the person in the photo or video said it was OK. When sexting involves someone under 18 it can be considered child pornography.

Sexting is also a crime when it involves harassing people of any age. This could be someone pestering you to send them a naked photo or sending you a naked photo that you don’t want.

New intimate image laws have been put in place in Western Australia, which make it against the law for intimate images or videos to be shared of anyone under the age of 16 or without the consent of the person in it. An intimate image or video can be someone naked, in their underwear or a person doing anything private like using the toilet or showering. Even photo shopping someone’s face into a sexual or private image of another person is considered an intimate image. 

Emotional consequences

Sexting can also impact you emotionally. Once an image is taken, it is easy to lose control over who sees it, especially if shared online.  It can be embarrassing and hurtful, and can affect a person for many years. Be aware that even images sent using technology like Snapchat can be screenshotted and shared with other people without you knowing.

If you send a sexual image or video and then regret it, talk to the person you sent it to as soon as possible and ask them to delete it.

What to do if a ‘private’ sext goes public

If you receive a sext from someone, delete it and do not forward it onto others.

If a sexual image or video of you has been shared online you can ask the person who shared it to remove it. If shared on social media un-tag yourself from the image or video and report the image so that it can be taken down. For more information on how to do this visit the eSafety website (external site).

If you think a crime has been committed, you can also contact the police.

What to do if someone sends you an unwanted sext

If someone sends you a sexual message, image or video that you didn’t want, delete it and do not forward it onto others. Let the sender know that you don’t want to receive any more. If they continue to send you unwanted sexts you can block them on social media or from text messages and calls on your phone. For more information on how to do this visit the eSafety website (external site).

Where to go to for help

It is a good idea to ask a trusted adult for help and support. If you want to talk to someone over the phone anonymously or confidentially, you can call:

  • Sexual Health Helpline on (08) 9227 6178 (metro) or 1800 198 205 (country)
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800
  • Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14

If you think a crime has been committed, you can also contact the police.

More information

For more information on sexting and staying safe online, visit these websites:

eSafety (external site)

 eSafety provides information and support for people who have experienced imaged-based abuse, their family and friends, and bystanders.

Youth Law Australia (external site)

eSafety provides information and support for people who have experienced imaged-based abuse, their family and friends, and bystanders.

Bullying No Way aims to create learning environments where every student and school community member is safe, supported, respected, valued, and free from bullying, violence, harassment and discrimination.

Once an image is taken it is easy to lose control over who sees it, especially if shared online.

 

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