What is Sexting?


What is sexting?

The word is a mix of ‘sex’ and ‘texting’. ‘Sexting’ is sending ‘sexy’ texts that can be sent as words or images. It is the act of “creating, sharing or posting of sexually explicit messages or images via the Internet, mobile phones or other electronic devices by people, especially young people” (Parliament of Victoria, 2012).

Sexting with pictures has probably been around as long as mobile phones have had the ability to take photos and send and receive images.

How prevalent is sexting?

It is most prevalent with Australian youth, with over 20% of teenagers having participated in sexting (AASA, 2012).

Figures released by the Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner’s Youth Advisory Group (YAG) in November last year of young people and their experience of sexting, found that 68.11% of participants do know someone who has taken or sent a nude or semi-clothed photo of themselves or someone else in their swimwear.

Member of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner’s Youth Advisory Group, Hugh Stevens has said that: “Youths are now using technology to communicate and be closer than ever before. Sexting is a phenomenon where this communication has significant negative consequences, often beyond the thoughts of the young people involved (Privacy Victoria, 2011, pg 1).

Why do young people do it?

In 2010 a survey by the Girlfriend magazine found that four in ten respondents had previously been asked to forward a nude photo of themselves. A US survey conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 51% of teen girls sent sexy messages or images due to pressure from a guy. A majority of teen girls and boys (66% and 60% respectively) also claimed they sent sexually suggestive content to be ‘fun or flirtatious’.

Consequences of sexting


Current leglisation identifies those involved in sexting as participating in child pornography and they can be charged and placed on the Sex Offenders Register. Commonwealth Law, part 10.6 of the Criminal Code Act 1995, identifies it as an offence to “access, transmit, publish, possess, control, supply, or obtain child pornography” (Find Law Australia, par 2). Unfortunately, young people don’t think of sexting as a crime and fail to realise the gravity of the situation.

The Youth Advisory Group’s survey asked young people if they believe sexting should be illegal by people under the age of 18; research suggested that 58.75% of the participants believed that the sending or forwarding of such photos of people under 18 should be against law. sexting

These acts or incidents of sexting are regulated by criminal law, not privacy law. A child aged 10 -14 can only be found guilty of a crime if the child knew that their actions (or inactions) were seriously wrong and not just naughty. Those over the age of 14 are considered, old enough to be charged with a criminal offence.

The Australian Federal Police have set-up a website to try and educate both children and parents about sexting;www.thinkyouknow.org.au.

Social Ramifications:

Sexting can initiate bullying; especially cyber-bullying. The way the picture is passed around is often the catalyst that starts the bullying. Sexting can ruin a person’s reputation or self-esteem, resulting in feelings of depression, embarrassment or isolation. Young people are often unaware of the social ramifications because of their age and maturity, and don’t understand what they are participating in.

Everything you send can become public

People find it extremely easy to forward a photo or message. They can show the images to other people via social media, online portals or portable devices. It can be shared around on many different communication devices. Something you once sent for that someone can be shared with everyone. Once you have sent it you can’t get it back. It can affect your future; when you try to get a job or start a new relationship with someone, and consume your thoughts. The person who you are sending the text or picture to may not want that type of communication with you, they may find it abusive.

If you have been involved in acts of sexting, or know someone who has, there is always help available

There is always someone there to help you. Don’t feel as if you are alone – there are always people who can help.

Go to people who are older and more mature for help, or someone you trust. Try contacting an organisation or talking to the school counsellor. If you don’t want to contact anyone face-to-face, try the Kids Helpline. They are available 24/7 to help and listen to you – they don’t judge or criticise you. “We care and we listen, any time and for any reason” – Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800)


ASSA (2012), Sexting, Retrieved 19th March, 2013 http://www.aasa.org/content/aspx?id=3390.

Findlaw Australia, Sexting and the Law in Australia, Retrived 21st March, 2013,http://www.findlaw.com.au/articles/4240/sexting-and-the-law-in-australia-aspx

Michael; K, Goodings; W & Everaardt; T (2010) The Social Implications of Sexting and the Australian Privacy Foundation’s Stance on the Government’s Preliminary Proposal to Filter the Mobile Internet” Retrieved 19th March 2013, http://works.bepress.com/kmichael/183/

Parliament of Victoria (2011) Inquiry into sexting , Retrived 22nd of March 2013,http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/lawreform/article/947

Privacy Victoria (2011) Call for young people to have their say on sexting, Retrieved 20th March 2013,http://www.privacy.vic.gove.au/privacy/web2.nsf/files/call-for-young-victorians-to-have-their-say-on-sexting

Sex and tech: results from a survey of teens and young adults / The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/PDF/SexTech_Summary.pdft

One thought on “What is Sexting?

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