X Close Search


What is sexting?

Sexting is when someone sends a sexually explicit image or message to another person. Traditionally people used SMS to send explicit text based messages, but with the recent boom in social media use and image based platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram – sexting is now more commonly associated with social media use.

Sexting isn’t exclusive to mobile devices, anybody can send messages or images of a sexual nature through computers, tablets or any other device that allows people to access social media and share images or messages with others.

Although most demographics engage in sexting, it has become very popular for teenagers and young people because they spend more time using the internet and are more likely to connect and develop online based relationships.

The growth of sexting

People have been exchanging explicit messages and images with their partners (and strangers) for as long as technology has allowed – this is nothing new. However, the combination of technological advancements, the rise in image based social media platforms and a huge increase in distance or internet based relationships has led to the exchanging of explicit images becoming more and more popular within all demographics.

Sexting terminology

Sexting has become so widespread, that people have even created new terms that are used as alternatives to the word ‘sexting’. Some of the popular terms are:

  • Trading/sending nudes (naked photos)
  • Pic for pic (picture for picture)
  • Snapsex (sexting that takes place on Snapchat)
  • Dirties (sending sexually explicit images)

The dangers of sexting

As sexting’s popularity increases, associated problems continue to manifest themselves. It is important that anybody considering the sharing of explicit images with other people is aware of the risks associated with sexting before hitting send. Some of the potential risks associated with sexting are:

  • Screenshotting – When sending images or messages of a sexual nature, it is important to remember that the recipient could easily screenshot them, regardless of the device or social media platform being used. Once someone has screenshotted the image or message they can distribute or share it as they please. Don’t be led into a false sense of security when platforms announce that images ‘disappear’ after a few seconds – they can still be screenshotted and also probably still exist on a server somewhere!
  • Sextortion – Sextortion is a form of sexual blackmail where someone gains access to sexually explicit images or messages and threatens to share them publically unless the victim performs further sexual acts or facilitates money transfers.
  • Blackmail – Someone could use screenshots of the images or messages as blackmail leverage to try and gain information from you or to get you to do things that you don’t want to do.
  • Premature sexual encounters – If a young person engages in sexting, they may feel pressured or inclined to have sexual relations with people before they are physically or emotionally prepared. This could result in sexual exploitation, academic problems, young pregnancy or worse.

Sexting and the law

Although sexting can be harmless and for the most part is not considered to be a crime, in most countries and states it is a crime to have and/or share sexually explicit images of a minor regardless whether it was consensual or not – the ‘official’ age of a minor varies greatly from country to country and even state to state. Most countries and states are introducing laws to prohibit the non-consensual sharing or promotion of explicit images of others. Visit our Revenge Porn section for further information.

Why do people sext?

There is a wide variety of reasons someone might sext or want to send sexually explicit images to someone else. Some common reasons include:

  • Peer pressure – Some people (especially teenagers and young people) may feel pressured into taking part because ‘everybody else is doing it’. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to their partners pressuring them to send nudes. This isn’t always done for malicious reasons but can lead to major problems such as blackmail or revenge porn.
  • Confidence boost – Some people choose to send images of a sexual nature in order to gain attention or compliments from the recipient.
  • Exploration – Young people can sometimes use sexting as a tool to explore their sexual identity. If someone is confused about their sexuality they may use it as way of ‘testing the waters’.
  • Flirting – Most commonly, people use sexting as a way to feel close to their partners at times they may be apart or if their relationship is long distance.

Sexting advice

If you do choose to sext someone, make sure the recipient is someone you can trust and that you are aware of all the risks before sending anything at all. Never sext because you feel pressured and be sure to get advice from your friends (the sensible ones). All it takes is that one person to share the content online – and your life could change forever.

If you need help for sexting or revenge porn we can help. Visit our Total Access Support section to learn more about the various ways we can help you with your problem or use our Global Support Service to access trained support advisors wherever you are in the world.