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Sexting — or using your phone to send sexual pictures, videos, or texts — might seem like no big deal. But before you hit send, there are some pretty big consequences to consider.

What is sexting?

Sexting means using your phone, computer, or camera to take or send sexy messages or images — usually selfies. You might think that sexting is just a harmless way to flirt or show your boyfriend or girlfriend that you’re into them. But sexts can outlast your crush or even your relationship. Once you click send, there’s no way to get your pictures and messages back. Maybe your ex or friend will delete them after the relationship ends or you have a fight, but what if they don’t?

Sexting can cause serious problems whether you send them or share them. The pics might get sent around or posted online, where people like your family, teachers, and friends could see them. Sharing these pictures or messages without permission is a serious violation of privacy and isn’t ok. And if the pictures you send or share are of someone under 18 (even if that’s you), you could even be arrested for child pornography, which is a serious crime.  

What should I do if someone asks me to sext them?

Does your boyfriend or girlfriend ask for or send you naked pictures? You have the right to say no to any form of sexual behavior, including sexting. You always deserve to feel safe and respected in your relationship.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you sext:

  • Is it legal? Sending, owning, or taking naked or sexual pictures of someone under 18 (called a minor) is generally illegal, even if you both said it was ok. Never send, store, or forward a naked picture of a minor. In some places, this includes having or sending pictures of yourself if you’re under 18.

  • Is it what you want? If someone is pressuring you to send sext messages when you don’t want to, or if they threaten to share your private photos or texts, they’re not respecting you or your boundaries which is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. So don’t send photos just because someone else really wants you to.

  • Will it get shared? This is the hardest question to answer, because you often just don’t know. When you like or trust someone enough to send them a sext, you might never imagine that they'd show your private messages to others. But sometimes people do mean things you'd never expect, especially after a fight or a breakup. They may share your sexts as a way to get back at you. Even if they don’t share a private picture of you on purpose, their phone can get looked through by a friend, lost, stolen, or hacked and your pictures can be shared without your knowledge or consent.

Sexting someone you love or care about can seem fun and exciting, but there’s a lot that can go wrong. There are a number of ways sexts can get into the wrong hands on purpose or by accident and cause some damage. So think twice before sending anything to anyone that you wouldn't want the whole world to see.

How can I keep my pictures and messages private?

Honestly — you just can't guarantee that. You might think you're only sharing things with certain people, but anyone can save and send pictures and texts to others (even with Snapchat or other hidden photo apps). Once it's out there, you have no control over who can see your picture, and no way of getting it back. Even if you delete it from your phone, page, or profile, other people can save or copy the image and spread it around.

Someone sent me a sext or a naked pic. What should I do?

If someone you’re dating or in a relationship with sends you a sext or naked picture:

  • Don’t send or show it to anybody. Sharing naked pictures is abusive and a major violation of trust. It can also be a crime to store or share sexual photos of someone under 18, even if you’re also under 18.

  • Talk to them about why sexting might not be a good idea. There are lots of others ways they can flirt or let you know how they feel.

  • Delete the sext as soon as possible. If your phone is lost, stolen, or borrowed someone might see it and share it with others.  

If a friend sends you someone else’s sext:

  • Tell the person who sent it to you that it’s not cool, and that they need to stop immediately.

  • Talk to an adult you trust if you think someone’s being bullied or harassed.

  • Don’t show anybody else (except an adult you trust) — it may be a crime to have photos of underage people, or share sexual pics without someone’s consent.

  • Delete the picture or sext.

If someone you don’t know or who makes you uncomfortable sends you a sext or naked picture:

  • Tell your parents or another adult you trust right away.

  • Don’t delete the photo or text until you show your parents/another adult you trust.

  • Don’t show anybody else except for your parents/another adult you trust.

Remember, it's NEVER okay to share or post someone else's private photos or texts, even if you're in a fight or don't like them. This is a cruel form of bullying and sexual harassment, and it can really hurt people.

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