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What is sexting?

Sexting is when you swap explicit photos or messages with someone. It could be a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend or someone you’ve met online.

‘Explicit’ means photos, messages or videos that are sexual. So this could mean:

  • naked or nude pictures
  • underwear pictures
  • sexual, rude or ‘dirty’ pictures
  • messages where you talk about a sex act, fantasy or ‘something dirty’.

It can feel very private, as you’re only sending that picture or message to one other person. People often feel braver or less embarrassed over text than they do in real life.

So, what’s the big deal?

Although sexting sounds like harmless fun, the problem is that once you send someone an explicit message or a naked photo or video, you lose all control over it.

Even with apps like SnapChat that delete photos after a short time, users can take screenshots and keep your photos without you knowing.

If you send something explicit, it can be forwarded on, put online, or shown to friends, family or strangers. If you wouldn’t want people like your parents to see it, don’t send it.

It’s also illegal to send indecent pictures of someone under the age of 18 in the UK.

“My partner wants me to send a naked picture, but I’m not sure I want to.”

That’s fine, don’t send it. Just as in real life you shouldn’t feel pressured into doing anything you’re not happy about, you shouldn’t feel under pressure to do this.

If your partner loves and respects you, they will understand and not keep asking you to do it. You can also use the ZipIt app, which is free from Childline, which helps get flirty chat back on track.

If they won’t leave the subject alone, you may be on the receiving end of sexual bullying. For help visit our pages on abusive relationships and bullying.

Before you sext…

  • Think carefully – even if you’re in a happy relationship now, things can change. Do you really want that person to have private photos or videos of you if you break up? Do you trust them not to pass them on if things turn bad?
  • Are you really sure you want to send sexts? Don’t feel pressured into doing it by anyone, even if you feel like everyone’s doing it or someone tells you it’s no big deal. Your body is yours, and only you decide who to share it with.

I’ve sent something I shouldn’t have… what now?

If you’re worried that your photos or messages are being shared online or with other people, first speak to the person who has them and ask them to take them down and delete them. Untag yourself in any explicit photos and report them to the website they are on.

Remember it’s never too late to tell someone and get help.

Get more advice from TheSite or call, email or chat with Childline.

Need some more help?

Would you like more help or do you want to ask a question? You can email us (

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