Image Sharing – The Facts


Type of Resource


Publication Date

June 26, 2023


Harmful or inappropriate content  / Online Blackmail/ Online Bullying  / Online Grooming/ Sharing nudes and semi-nudes

Sharing ‘nudes’ and ‘semi nudes’ is not something all children and young people do, but when it happens it can bring risks to their wellbeing.

Your response to incidents of nudes and semi-nudes will depend on the motivations, sexual development and behaviours that surround them.

Incidents can be split into two categories, which require different responses. You should always contact the safeguarding lead in your school if an incident happens.

This is where images have been created and shared among young people with no adult involvement. These may include images intended for romantic purposes or images shared to ‘seek attention’ or approval from an individual. Typically, there is no apparent harm or reckless misuse.
These may include abusive elements far beyond the images in question. These incidents may see adult involvement alongside grooming behaviours and sexual exploitation. They may also see other young people recklessly misusing images to inflict harm.

Understanding the scale of ‘nudes’

In a recent ‘Digital Romance Report’ by CEOP and Brook they found that:
“Most young people do not see ‘sexting’ as a problem and are reluctant to talk to adults about it because they are afraid of being judged or having their phones taken away”.
Channel 4 News and the NSPCC worked together for six months speaking to children aged 13-16 throughout the UK and the results are concerning:
“I get asked for naked pictures… at least two or three times a week” said a 15-year-old girl. She added,“You would have seen a girl’s breasts before you’ve seen their face”.

While adults risk embarrassment if a ‘nude’ or ‘semi-nude’ photo they have sent to another adult is posted or shared with a wider audience, the implications for children are much greater.

Children and young people need to understand the risks that image sharing of ‘nudes and ‘semi nudes’ can pose.

How are images shared?

Images can be shared privately by a range of methods including text messaging (SMS) and WhatsApp but they can also be posted to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. They may also be livestreamed on other platforms.

While some platforms have disappearing messaging functions, all images and content can be saved using screen recording software. Young people should be aware of this false sense of security.

Most social media sites have strict policies that prohibit nude photographs however, they are also clear in stating that they are ‘reactive’, i.e. they DO NOT proactively monitor all content that is posted on their platforms.

What goes online DOES NOT have to stay online

In image related incidents young people can have profound levels of anxiety. Hearing statements like ‘what goes online stays online’ is counterproductive in supporting young people. The fact is that images in most cases can be removed.Children and young people should be reassured that there is hope, and that the issue can be fixed. The quicker an image is reported the easier it is to remove.

There are various reporting pathways for removal which can be platforms themselves, law enforcement or charities.

The Internet Watch Foundation, together with Childline have a tool called ‘report, remove’.

This is an online reporting tool where young people (but never adults) can upload an image or link for removal.

SWGfl, in partnership with UK Safer Internet Centre have developed a tool called ‘So you got naked online’, which helps and advises young people (or a friend) who has lost control of a nude or semi-nude picture.

In many cases early intervention by parents, carers, teachers or police officers can prevent an image that a child has shared from circulating on a wider scale. Furthermore, sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google have technology that can often remove, limit or ban sexual images of children and young people.

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