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What is sexting?

Sexting is the act of sending sexual messages, this can include:

  • Sending and/or receiving naked pictures or ‘nudes’
  • Sending and/or receiving sexual or provocative pictures or videos
  • These could be sent by mobile phone, computer or tablet, or direct messaging on social media sites
  • People of any age group can be involved in sexting
  • Sexts could be from a friend, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, someone online, a stranger, you

Before you send a photo or video ask yourself…

Are you happy for everyone to see that video or photo you just sent?

Remember once a picture or video is sent it is impossible to get it back. It could end up anywhere. It could be posted online. It could be used to blackmail you with the threat of being further distributed or sent to friends and family.

Is sexting illegal?

It is a crime for anyone to possess, make, distribute or show anyone an indecent image of a child under 18 years of age. This offence can be committed by an adult or a child.

It is also a crime for an adult to send a sexually explicit image of themselves to a child.

If a child sends a sexually explicit image of an adult to another child there is no sexual offence committed, however it may be appropriate to raise this with Social Services.

While it is not a crime to send intimate images or videos of yourself privately to another person if you're both consenting adults, showing intimate images or videos, sending them to another person, uploading them to a website, or threatening to do this without consent is a crime. This could also include or be categorised under offences like, Sextortion or Disclosing Private Images.

If you are in any doubt please contact Police on 101, or in an emergency contact 999.

What are the consequences of sexting?

If you receive what you believe to be an indecent image, do not delete it and contact the Police as soon as you can. DO NOT save the image, send it to another person or show it to anyone else as you may be committing an offence.

Anyone making, possessing or sending an indecent image of a child will have committed an offence for which they could be prosecuted and could potentially put them on the Sex Offenders Register. This could affect future job prospects and prevent you from travelling to certain countries.

Even the threat of releasing an intimate image of somebody else could land you up to two years in prison and 10 years on the sex offender register.

Worried your nudes have been shared online? Tell someone you trust.

Help and support

Remember you are not alone.

Police are here to support you, not judge you. You can make a report online or phone us on 101 to report any incidents about sexting.

We will assess the circumstances of each case individually and deal with these incidents in a sensitive manner

For further help and advice about sexting or online safety, the following agencies are also there to support you:

NSPCC’s 24 hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email [email protected]

Childline’s 24 hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at

Online Safety Hub Logo
Online Safety Hub Logo

Further Support and Advice

Developed by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI), the Online Safety Hub is a dedicated website for young people and adults, focusing on Online Safety. 

Learn about the potential risks of sharing nudes and semi-nudes online, identify warning signs and gain practical insights into safeguarding yourself and your privacy.

Learn about sharing nudes and semi-nudes