Sexting – exchanging images of a sexual nature – may seem like a harmless way to flirt or joke around. It’s easy to just ‘send a pic’ without thinking too much about it. But here are 3 things you really ought to consider before hitting ‘send’ or sharing that pic on sites like as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or Snapchat.

1. Taking, sending or receiving sexual images of anyone under 18 is illegal.
If you’re found to have a naked or semi-naked photo of someone under 18 on your phone or your computer, you can be charged with a criminal offence. If you forward the photo to someone else you can be charged with a criminal offence, even if you delete it from your own phone. You can be charged even if it is a photo of yourself and you agree to the photo being sent.

2. Remember that everything you send might become public. Think how easy it is to forward a photo or a message. Social media sites make it even easier to post stuff quickly, as well as more difficult for you to have control over who gets the images and where they go, and it can be incredibly difficult to have the images removed. Even if they are removed, screenshots mean there’s no guarantee someone won’t re-post your image.

3. Once you’ve sent something you can’t get it back or control what happens with it. Think about your future and how you might like people to see you. Maybe you will try to get a job, or join a sports team, or fall in love with someone else. You probably won’t want these future relationships jeopardised because you once sexted someone to try and hook up with them.

What you can do
If you have sent an image or text and you are worried about what might happen now, there are some things that you can do to try and make sure that your sexts don’t get passed on:

  • Ask the person you sexted to delete the message from their phone or inbox.
  • If you have sent an image or text that you feel is now out of your control, talk to a trusted adult to work out what you can do.
  • If someone else has posted sexual or naked photos or videos of you online, you can report it to the service it was posted on and ask for the images to be taken down.

If someone sends you unwanted sexts:

  • Do not forward the image to anyone – consider what this could mean to the person involved.
  • If the sext is from a friend, tell them you do not want any more sexts like that from them.
  • Block the sender if the sexts keep coming. Unfriend them from your social networking account. Block their number on your phone.
  • You might need to change your mobile number. If you do, make sure that only friends you trust get your new number.

Remember, don’t be pressured into doing something you don’t want to do. We’re not just talking about sexting now. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, and you’re really not OK with something, then don’t do it.