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Trigger Warning: This article contains references to sexual exploitation. If you have been exploited online, contact An Garda Síochána immediately.
Sexting is the umbrella term for when you send or receive a message, photo or video that has sexual content in it. This might be words, pictures, or videos, including nude pictures or videos.
However, just because it may seem common among your peers doesn’t mean that it’s risk-free.
The consequences of sending nudes can be traumatising and unhealthy for many relationships. And, if you’re under 18, you may be breaking the law.
Here are a few reasons to think twice before hitting ‘send’
1. You could get into trouble with the law
Any sexual image of you taken while you are under 18 is considered child exploitation material. That means you and anyone you send the image to may face serious consequences.
Anyone who has a sexual image of a minor or shares it with others is also committing a crime and may be prosecuted. Legal penalties can include a fine, spending time in prison and being added to the sex offenders register.
2. Your nude could be shared with others
Before sending an nude, think about the consequences. Even though the person might promise that they’ll never share it with anyone, someone else may see it on their phone and share it or take a picture of it with their own device.
At a certain point, the person you sent it to may decide to share it or post it on social media. This might not happen right away. In fact, nudes can be shared a long time after they’re sent, for example, after an argument or a break-up.
3. Your nude could be used to harass you
After you send a nude, the person could use the image as blackmail to force you to give in to other demands.
For example, the person may threaten to post the image publicly if you refuse to share more nudes, send them money, etc.
4. Sending a nude could affect your health and reputation
If a sexual image of you is shared, you can take action to have it removed.
However, it can be difficult to ensure all traces of the image are completely gone, which could affect your online reputation as you grow up.
Also, this experience can have serious effects on your mental health and wellbeing. If this happens to you, never be afraid to ask for help from a parent, carer or another trusted adult.
5. Sending a nude doesn’t create a healthy relationship
The person you’re communicating with might try to tell you that sending nudes is a way of proving that you trust each other. However, anyone who truly respects and trusts you would never expect you to do this.
Healthy relationships allow both partners to express what they want, while recognising the importance of mutual respect and consent.
If the person reacts badly when you don’t send a nude, your relationship may not be a healthy one. It could be a sign that the relationship is not meant to be.
What to do if a nude has been shared
If you feel affected by any of the issues raised in this article and need to talk, Childline is ready to listen. Call 1800 66 66 66, send a text to 50101 or chat online at Childline.ie, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.