Planned Parenthood

Sexting, the Internet, and Your Privacy

Teens Sexting

Sexting, the Internet, and your privacy at a glance:

  • There's no way to keep your messages and pictures private when you send them to others.
  • Don't send stuff online or on your phone that you wouldn't want everyone you know to see.
  • Trust your instincts — if you feel uncomfortable sharing something online or on your phone, don't.

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What's sexting?

Sexting means using your phone, computer, or digital camera to take and send sexy messages or images — usually selfies. Sexting; uploading nude or graphic pictures to Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat; and writing sexy posts online is no joke. It might not seem like a big deal, but it can cause serious issues in your personal life. Your sexts and pics might get sent around or posted online, where people like your family, teachers, and friends could see them — SO embarrassing! And if you're under 18, you could even be guilty of child pornography, which is a serious crime.

How can I keep my pictures and messages private?

Honestly —you just can't. You might think you're only sharing things with certain people, but anyone can save and send pics and texts to others (even with Snapchat). Once it's out there, you have no control over who can see the image, and no way of getting it back.
When you like or trust someone enough to send them a sext, you might never imagine that they'd betray you by showing your private messages to others. But sometimes people do mean things you'd never expect, especially after a breakup, and they may share your sexts as a way to embarrass and get back at you. And because it's so easy for people to disguise who they are online, you don't always know who exactly you're talking with anyway. Even if it's your friend's account, someone else might be using it. Also, if you or the person you sent pics to loses their phone, there's no telling who might end up seeing all of your business.

There are a number of ways sexts can get into the wrong hands and mess up your life. Bottom line is: never post or send anything to anyone that you wouldn't want the whole world to see.

Also, 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. If someone sends you another person's private sexts, delete them immediately, and tell the sender to stop. And talk with a parent or an adult at your school if you think someone is being bullied or harassed.

How can I protect my privacy online from people I don’t know?

Assume that everything you post online could be seen by anyone — including your parents. Only post things you want everyone to see.

Get familiar with your privacy settings — and remember that sites like Facebook update their policies all the time. So keep your privacy settings updated. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask your parents or another adult you trust.

Be careful about what you put on your timeline or profile. Protect your personal information — like phone numbers, addresses, birth dates, and photos with landmarks  that might make it easier for someone to find you.

Make sure that your friends know that you don’t want them posting your personal information, inappropriate comments, or check-ins about you on Facebook or Twitter. For example, ask people not to post or tag pictures without checking with you first.

If someone is sending you messages or pictures that you don’t want to see or make you feel uncomfortable, tell a parent or an adult you trust.

What else should I think about when it comes to technology?

We spend our lives attached to the internet — our phones, computers, tablets, etc. It keeps us entertained and puts information at our fingertips. This is great in a lot of ways, but things can turn bad if you’re not careful. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Be careful with humor. Even if you think it’s obvious that you’re kidding, it can be really hard to tell in a text or message. If you want to post or send something that’s meant to be funny — especially something sexy — make that clear (like add “lol” or “j/k”).
  • Don’t fight through text or messaging — save disagreements or arguments for face-to-face. When you see each other in person, you’re both probably going to be a lot nicer and more respectful.
  • Trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable sending a message or a picture that someone asks for, don’t do it. Especially if what you’d be sending is sexual, it might be illegal if you’re under 18.
  • Think it through. What you send or post is permanent and easy to share. You may realize after the fact that you shouldn’t have posted something and take it back down, but someone else may have already saved or shared it. So remember, it’s impossible to really “delete” anything once it’s sent or posted.
  • Your life online is a digital extension of who you are. When someone pressures you or is keeping constant tabs on you through technology, that's not cool.
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Sexting, the Internet, and Your Privacy