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“Sexting” is generally referred to as a teen or young adult sharing nude photos or lewd text on mobile phones or through online chat. The practice can have legal and physiological consequences as well as long term damage for careers and family later in life.

Sexting is illegal! Don’t take or send nude or sexually suggestive photos of yourself or anyone else including sexually suggestive text messages. By doing this or passing on someone else’s photos or texts you run the risk of being charged with child pornography. If you keep these messages on your cell phone or computer you could be charged with possession of child pornography. If the messages are sent across state boundaries this becomes a federal offence which generally carries greater penalties in court.

There are also non legal consequences of such behaviour. Emotional damage as well as dame to one’s reputation is common. Friendships aren’t often lasting so by sharing intimate photos and text with a friend you have no control of what happens to this information if the friendship ends. These messages can be transmitted and shared with many people or put on the internet as a permanent record. Once this occurs it will be practically impossible to undo the damage to reputation or remove all traces of the personal data.

There are many causes for sexting and this behaviour usually is a result of peer pressure (a form of cyber bullying) or pressure from a boyfriend / girlfriend. Sometimes it can be an impulsive behaviour, flirting or even blackmail. It is always a bad idea to partake in this behaviour.

Parents need to talk with their children about sexting to determine what their child knows about it and also to inform them of the potential consequences of sharing this kind of intimate information. Parents need to express how they feel in a conversational, non-confrontational way. A two-way dialog can go a long way toward helping your kids understand how to minimize legal, social and reputation risks.

Stay alert when using digital media and sharing information. People aren’t always who they seem to be and sometimes changes in circumstance can lead to embarrassing and damaging consequences. Critical thinking about what we upload as well as download is the best protection.


  1. If your children have sent any nude pictures of themselves, make sure they stop immediately. Explain that they’re at risk of being charged with producing and distributing child pornography. If they’ve received a nude photo, make sure they haven’t sent it to anyone else.
  2. Either way, the next most important thing is to have a good talk. Stay calm, be supportive and learn as much as you can about the situation. For example, see if it was impulsive behaviour, a teen “romance” thing, or a form of harassment.
  3. Consider talking with other teens and parents involved, based on what you’ve learned.
  4. Some experts advise that you report the photo to your local police, but consider that, while intending to protect your child, you could incriminate another – and possibly your own child. That’s why it’s usually good to talk to the kids and their parents first. If malice or criminal intent is involved, you may want to consult a lawyer, the police, or other experts on the law in your jurisdiction, but be aware of the possibility that child-pornography charges could be filed against anyone involved.


  1. If a sexting photo arrives on your phone, do not send it to anyone else (that could be considered distribution of child pornography).
  2. Talk to a parent or trusted adult. Tell them the full story so they know how to support you. And don’t freak out if that adult decides to talk with the parents of others involved – that could be the best way to keep all of you from getting into serious trouble.
  3. If the picture is from a friend or someone you know, then someone needs to talk to that friend so he or she knows sexting is against the law. You’re actually doing the friend a big favour because of the serious trouble that can happen if the police get involved.
  4. If the photos keep coming, you and a parent might have to speak with your friend’s parents, school authorities or the police.

How do I deal With It?

  1. Think before you post—it could be online forever.
  2. Adjust your privacy settings—some things were never meant to be shared.
  3. Manage photos or images tagged with your name.
  4. Delete any sexting you receive and don’t forward anything on.
  5. Consider others before you photograph or post.
  6. Talk to an adult you trust.

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