Keeping Young People Safe Online

Sharing Nudes and Semi-Nudes

Sharing nudes and semi-nudes is a term used to describe the sending or posting of naked or partially naked images, videos or livestreams online by young people under the age of 18. This could be via text, email, social media and gaming platforms, chat apps or forums. It could also involve sharing between devices via services like Apple’s AirDrop which works offline. Sharing nudes is sometimes called ‘sexting’, however this term is often used by young people to talk about sharing sexual messages and not imagery. Other terms used by children and young people include ‘dick pics’, ‘pics’, ‘nudes’ or ‘dirts’.

This advice does not include a child or young person under 18 sending or receiving nudes and semi-nude indecent images with an adult; adults sharing nudes or semi-nudes of a child; or adults communicating sexually with a child under 16 years old, including textual/written communication that does not contain any images. These are all forms of child sexual abuse and should always be reported to the police as a matter of urgency.

Click or Tap this box to learn more about where you can find support

  • Seek advice from Children’s Social Services Gateway team using the contact details below. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure about your health trust. The gateway team will be able to direct you to the right person:
    • Belfast HSCT Gateway: 028 9050 7000
    • South Eastern HSCT Gateway: 0300 1000 300
    • Northern HSCT Gateway: 0300 1234 333
    • Southern HSCT Gateway: 0800 783 7745
    • Western HSCT Gateway: 028 7131 4090
    • Out of office hours and bank holidays – all Trust areas: 028 9504 9999
  • If a child has shared a nude or semi-nude because they were threatened, pressured or forced to you can also report it online to CEOP.
  • The Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline is a free, 24/7 helpline and webchat for anyone over 16 with concerns about domestic and sexual abuse. Call 0808 802 1414 or email [email protected].
  • The NSPCC helpline is available for information and advice about a child’s safety or wellbeing on 0808 800 5000 or email [email protected]
  • If you or someone you know is in distress or despair contact Lifeline for free on 0808 808 8000 or text 18001 0808 808 8000.

Why do young people share nudes and semi-nudes?

Not all children and young people do it, but some do and the reasons may include:

  • Curiosity about sex and relationships
  • Fun and flirtation with a partner or someone they like
  • They think they look good
  • To explore or prove their sexuality
  • They wrongly believe that it’s expected in a relationship
  • As a dare or joke within a peer group
  • Revenge or retaliation when a relationship breaks up  Someone sharing or threatening to share intimate images or films is illegal and should be reported to the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. 
  • Grooming, blackmail and coercion Young people may be groomed, tricked, blackmailed and coerced into sharing nudes and semi-nudes. This is a particular risk when communicating with strangers online who aren’t who they say they are. When this happens, a child may be scared, embarrassed and feel like they are to blame for something that has happened to them. However, they are never to blame and the responsibility always lies with the person who has harmed and abused them. If you are concerned that a child has been groomed, blackmailed or coerced, even if you aren’t sure, report it to the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Police officers are trained to deal with these types of situations and the matter will be dealt with sensitively.

Find out more about online grooming and blackmail.

Watch these four short videos from the National Crime Agency CEOP Education team called Nude selfies – what parents and carers need to know about young people sharing images.

Understanding Why
Talking to your child
When should I be worried?
Where to get help
It is illegal to take, possess or share nude images of anyone under 18 and it is important that young people are aware of this. The legislation was created to protect and safeguard children from abuse, it was not created to criminalise them. Even if a young person has technically committed an offence, the matter will be dealt with sensitively by the police, who will take into consideration all of the circumstances. However, young people who pressure other under 18s to share nudes and semi-nudes, or intentionally share or threaten to share intimate images or films without consent are committing a serious offence.

Losing control of the images and videos is a significant risk because once something is shared, it can be copied and saved by others, shared with other people without consent or posted online which can be highly distressing for a young person. If the imagery is shared further, it may lead to embarrassment, bullying and increased vulnerability to blackmail and exploitation.

While it can be difficult to remove images online, it is possible and the sooner an image is reported the easier it is to remove.

Sharing nudes and semi-nudes of under 18s is illegal, which causes considerable concern amongst children and young people, parents and carers and those who work with them.

Finding a sensitive and supportive way to deal with the situation is the goal. A young person may be feeling embarrassed or distressed and it can be difficult for adults to know what to say and do. The quicker you can respond the more control you have.

  • Contact the police on 101 for advice or 999 in an emergency. Police officers are trained to deal with these types of situations and the matter will be dealt with sensitively and all of the circumstances will be taken into consideration.
  • Don’t reply to someone trying to threaten or blackmail you, instead report the matter to the police.
  • If a child has posted an image online, report it to the platform. If they have shared an image with someone else, ask them to delete it.
  • Young people under 18 who are worried that a sexual image or video of them may have been shared online can use Childline and IWF’s Report Remove tool to try to remove it.

Remember, one of the greatest barriers to a child or young person seeking help and reporting online harm, is feeling that they are to blame for something that has happened to them. It’s important that an adult response is supportive and non-judgemental. Language and behaviour that implies that a child or young person is complicit in, or responsible in some way, for any harm or abuse they’ve experienced or may experience is victim blaming.

  • Having early, often and open conversations with a child or young person about their online activity can help them understand who to trust online and empower them to avoid or safely deal with inappropriate contact. Internet Matters provides lots of advice and tips about how to start the conversation
  • Discuss how easy it is for someone to hide their identity online and the risks with sharing sexual messages, images, videos and/or livestreams with strangers or new online ‘friends’ that they don’t know in real life
  • Help them to recognise and report inappropriate and unhealthy communication, this might include:
    • Engaging with strangers or ‘friends’ that they haven’t met offline
    • Conversations about sex or sexual activity
    • Receiving or requests for nudes, sexual videos or livestreams
    • Requests to share personal info and asking to meet up offline
    • Receiving gifts and money from someone they haven’t met
    • Someone forcing them to do things, including sexual activity
    • Anything that makes a child feel unsafe or uncomfortable
  • Make sure that a child understands the basics:
    • Keep it private and don’t share sensitive, private of personal information online. Use privacy settings to protect their personal accounts and content
    • Keep your guard up and be mindful that people online aren’t always who they say they are, predators are skilled at faking their identity! Never share intimate and sexual images, videos or livestreams in online spaces
    • Ignore, block, report and tell a trusted adult if anything upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable online
    • Always avoid nudity and never share intimate and sexual images, videos or livestreams

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