Sexting of indecent images by under 18s

Sexting means sending indecent images (pictures and/or videos) of yourself or others or sending sexually explicit messages. Sexting is commonly known as “trading nudes”, “dirties” or “pic for pic”. Sexting can happen on any electronic device that allows sharing of media and messages including smartphones, tablets, laptops or mobiles. Is this Self Generated Indecent Imagery (SGII)? Creating, possessing, copying or distributing indecent or sexual images of children and young people under the age of 18 is considered SGII. In the UK the age of consent for sexual intercourse is 16. However, it is an offence to make, distribute, possess or show any indecent images of anyone aged under 18, even if the content was created with the consent of that young person. The law is contained in section 1 Protection of Children Act 1978. Examples include:
  • a child (under 18) sharing a sexual image with their peer (also under 18)
  • a child (under 18) sharing a sexual image created by another child with a peer or an adult
  • a child (under 18) in possession of a sexual image created by a child (under 18)
“Indecent” means, for example:
  • naked pictures
  • topless pictures of a girl
  • pictures of genitals
  • sex acts including masturbation
  • sexual pictures in underwear
The police have said that sexting by children will primarily be considered as a safeguarding issue. The police (in the UK) must, by law, record all sexting incidents on their crime system but as of January 2016, they can decide not to take further action against the young person if it is not in the public interest. This will be at the discretion of the police. ‘indecent’ is not defined in legislation but can include penetrative and non-penetrative sexual activity ‘making’ can include opening, accessing, downloading and storing online content ‘sharing’ includes sending on an email, offering on a file sharing platform, uploading to a site that other people have access to, and possessing with a view to distribute Please be aware this list is not exhaustive and other situations could also be covered by these offences.
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