Sexting is where you send naked, partially naked, suggestive or sexually explicit pictures of yourself by text message or instant message, or over the internet. It can include sexually explicit or suggestive text as well as photos.

Whilst you may think that sending suggestive or sexually explicit messages to your girlfriend or boyfriend might be fun at the time, you should always consider what will happen if they show their friends.

Screenshots of text messages, Snapchat or Instagram are very easily forwarded to friends or posted on social media. They can go viral from there and you will never be able to get it back.

At the end of the day, there is no safe way to send a sexual picture. You can’t control who sees a photo of you or someone else once it has been sent by text, email or posted online.

The best way to stay safe is:

  • don’t take, send or store a sexual photo or video of anyone under 18;
  • if you receive a sexual picture of someone who you know is under 18 or who looks under 18, DON’T share it and DO delete it immediately; and
  • if you’re worried about a picture that’s already out there, talk to an adult you trust.

Is sexting illegal?

If you are under 18 sending sexual photographs of yourself is illegal.

Even though the age of consent might be different in your state or territory, when you use the internet or a mobile phone, the national laws of Australia applies.  These national laws ban sexting for anyone under 18.

Sending or receiving sexual photographs of anyone under 18 is illegal, even if you are also under 18. This is very serious and you can be charged with child pornography crimes. You could also be placed on the sex offenders registry.  You might think that a picture you have is okay because the person in it agreed to have their photo taken or sent it to you in the first place. But the law doesn’t distinguish between photos that young people take of their friends or partners and other types of child pornography. Any sexual image of a person under 18 could be considered child pornography by a court.

This means that you can’t take, send or store a sexual picture of yourself if you’re under 18, even if you decide you want to, and even if you’re old enough to consent (agree) to other sexual activity. If you’re within the age of consent in your state, it is legally okay for you to have sex, as long as both partners freely agree and are within the age of consent. But if one of you is under 18, you can’t film or photograph yourselves with your clothes off or doing anything sexual.

Consequences of sexting

As well as being illegal if anyone involved is under 18, there are other consequences.  It can also lead to serious penalties or being found guilty of sexual offences, and you can be stopped from working or volunteering with children, and your details could be permanently recorded on a register of sex offenders.

Even if you are in a secure relationship now, you may break up in the future and the other person could show the images to someone else.  When people find out what you did or see the pictures it could lead to bullying and or humiliation.  It might be that once the other person receives the photos they want to ‘brag’ to their friends, who then show others and before you know it everyone you know has seen you naked or in a compromised position.

If you are over 18 and with another consenting adult it’s not illegal to “sext” or send sexual photos of yourselves to each other, but you should consider the consequences of sexting regardless of your age as not all relationships last and not all end nicely.  Once those pictures leave your control you never know where they might wind up or when!  Remember – once they are out there you can’t get them back.  It’s forever!