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What is sexting?

If you decide to send a sext it is important to understand what could happen after

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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For some people, sexting can be relatively incident-free and your messages will only be seen by the person you initially planned would see them. But there are also cases where an image or message which you share and intend to be private is then shown to or shared with other people.

There is only so much you can do to protect yourself from a naked picture or video of you getting into the wrong hands. Other than not sending one at all, there is no guarantee you can prevent it from being shared with a wider audience than you initially intended.

Remember, you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, and should never feel pressured into it. No matter how much you like the other person or how much pressure they put on you. If they respect you, they will completely understand, and if they don’t understand it is even more of a reason not to share one with them.

If you’re in a situation that makes you uncomfortable and the other person keeps asking you for sexts, don’t be afraid to block them. You can find lots of information on blocking and more over at our Online Safety Hub. You can also find out more about peer pressure here.

Protecting yourself and sexting

In this section

What is it?

Sexting is the sending of messages, images and videos of a sexual nature. This includes photos in which people are naked or of genitalia as well as messages which talk about performing sexual acts.

Sexting can be with a partner, a friend  or an acquaintance/stranger on a dating app.

Why do people sext?

For some people, sending or receiving sexts can be a turn-on or a way to feel intimate with another person.

You may feel that sending a sext will make someone like you more. But remember, if someone is worth your while, they will like you whether you send them sexts or not.

Maybe you are both aroused and far away from each other and therefore decide it’s the only option available to you at that moment in time. You might be using a dating app like Tinder, Grindr or Blendr and the person you’re sending a nude to is someone you’ve never met or chatted to before.

Things to consider if you are thinking about pressing ‘send’

  • Do you feel confident and secure in sending a sext?
  • How would you feel if a naked image of you were to appear on social media?
  • If sending an image on snapchat remember that although it disappears after time, the image can still be screenshot
  • Consider what will happen to the photo/video if you break up with the person or friend you’re sending it to
  • There have been cases where nudes have been used to blackmail people
  • If you’re on a webcam, your session could be recorded without your knowledge
  • Consider the emotional stress of having an intimate photo shared by an ex

Sexting and the law

Remember, if you are under 18, a sexual image of you will be considered child exploitation material. This means that you and the person you send it too could be in some very serious trouble as possessing or distributing explicit images of a young person under 18 is illegal and can lead to criminal prosecution. Penalties can include jail time and a fine. Offenders are also automatically added to the sex offenders register for at least 2 ½ years and there are no exceptions.

If you're making the image just to look at together, insist that it is made and kept on your own phone or device.

OK, I’ve considered what can go wrong, now - how can I protect myself?

  • Only share with people you trust (bearing in mind you may trust them if they are a friend or partner now, but it’s important to think about what they would do if this were no longer the case).
  • Try to avoid showing your face in any pictures/video - make sure you crop photos or aim the webcam away from your face so it’s not in shot.
  • To avoid your image leaking in a system hack, use a secure encrypted messaging app. There are loads of these out there, including Threema and Silent Circle.
  • Make an agreement with the other person to delete the photos/vids/texts afterwards.
  • If you’re using a dating app, delete and reinstall it and your profile regularly.
  • Don’t reveal too much personal info to strangers.
  • When you break up with your significant other - arrange a time to meet up to delete any such photos/videos from each other’s devices.

So I got naked, and now it’s online. What do I do?

Talk to someone

Although this can be an upsetting time try not to panic. Tell someone you trust, you may feel embarrassed but talking to a parent, friend or trusted adult will help as they can offer a support and advice. If an image of you is being shared at a college or school, report it to someone in charge who will be able to help


Untag yourself if tagged and deactivate your social media accounts. Report it to the website in question and demand they remove it. Find out more about reporting on different platforms here.

Create social media profiles for your name. This will push the bad search results off the first pages of Google. There are professional privacy companies who can help you to do this. You can also now contact Google to request they remove the images from search results. You can do this here.

Take control

Contact a legal professional to engage their assistance in removing it and demanding the person who shared it to surrender all copies they possess. Under Data Protection and copyright law, you have the legal right to have these images taken off the internet.

Be prepared for the stress, trauma & anxiety it will cause, but also know; things will get better. People may not quickly forget an incident, but they will quickly forget who was involved, so don’t worry, life will go on as normal. We all make mistakes. It’s important to have someone who can help you through a challenging time - so make sure you don’t try to deal with it alone.

What you should do if you get sent a nude going viral?

Think about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of someone especially if they are under 17  (even if it’s of you). The sext is actually classified as “child exploitation material” and you could be charged with producing or sharing  this information under the Child Pornography and Trafficking Act. Not to mention the public humiliation, which could affect life at school and a future career. It could even stop you being admitted to places like America on holiday.

Not only that, but just be a good human and think about how you would feel if you were the person in the photo; have some compassion and report the image or reach out to the person involved to help them deal with situation.

Watch This Space video on the dangers of sexting:

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

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Published Feb­ru­ary 12th2014
Last updated Feb­ru­ary 4th2019
Tags sexting relationships safety
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