Sexting (a combination of the words ‘sex’ and ‘texting’) is defined as sharing explicit images, messages, or videos via the internet or mobile phones.
Some people may see sexting as an expression of their sexuality, but it raises issues of consent, privacy, harassment, and legality.
What can happen if I sext?
It is an offence under the Western Australia Criminal Code to take a sexually explicit photograph or image of a person under the age of 16 years. Additionally, it is an offence to encourage persons under the age of 16 to take sexually explicit photos of themselves.
The penalty, under the Western Australian Criminal Code, for these types of child pornography offences is up to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
Further, it is an offence under the Commonwealth Criminal code to transmit a sexually explicit photograph/image of a person under the age of 18 years.
You could be charged with a criminal offence if:
- You take a nude, semi-nude, or sexually explicit photo of a person under the age of 18, even if they agree to the photo being taken or if you take photos of yourself.
- You take a photo or a video of a person under the age of 16 involved in sexual activity or posing in an indecent sexual manner, even if it is of yourself.
- You are found to have this kind of photo or video on your phone or other device (e.g. PC or iPod).
- You forward this kind of photo or video of a person under the age of 18 onto others.
Penalties for possession or distribution of child pornography, under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, are up to a maximum of 15 years imprisonment, with higher penalties (up to 25 years imprisonment) for aggravated offences. Young people (under 18 years) could be charged for taking or sending a photo or video of someone under 18 years, even if all people involved provide consent.
As well as the legal implications, sexting can have psychological consequences. The media has reported many cases where young people were harassed or bullied because they sent someone a sext of themselves, which was then sent to other people without their permission. This type of bullying and harassment can lead to depression and in some cases suicide.
Remember that a sext is permanent and may not remain private. If the images or videos are uploaded to the internet, it’s possible that they will not be removed. As well as embarrassment, regret, and possible bullying and harassment, this can really come back to haunt you in the future – like when you’re looking for a job. How bad would it be if your potential employer did a background check and found naked pictures!
Who can I report it to?
If someone sends you a sext, or if you know that people are sending pictures of a sext, it’s important to report it to the appropriate authorities, even if everyone involved has provided consent.
- Do not investigate or email questionable photos. Investigation is the role of the police.
- If possible, isolate the images and turn off the device.
- Report the incident to your parent or school principal, who will then report to the police.
Who can I talk to?
Need to talk to somebody about it in an anonymous and confidential manner? If you're having issues related to sexting, relationships, or sexuality, call the Sexual Health Helpline on (08) 9227 6178 (metro) or 1800 198 205 (country).
If you want to talk to someone about bullying, harassment, or other issues, contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
For more information on sexting and staying safe online, visit these websites:
Cybersmart provides activities, resources and practical advice to help, kids, teens, teachers and parents safely enjoy the online world.
Bullying No Way
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.
Growing Developing Health Relationships: Background Note on Social Media: Sexting
Cybersafety Help Button
The Australian Government's Cybersafety Help Button provides internet users, particularly children and young people, with easy online access to cybersafety information and assistance available in Australia.