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Sexting / indecent images of young people and children / youth-produced sexual imagery

Page last updated: 11/01/2021

Definition / language

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the UK Council for Internet Safety have published guidance to support education settings in responding to incidents involving the sharing of nudes and semi-nudes and safeguarding children and young people.

This advice uses the term 'sharing nudes and semi-nudes' to mean the sending or posting of nude or semi-nude images, videos or live streams by young people under the age of 18 online. This could be via social media, gaming platforms, chat apps or forums.  The term 'nudes' is used as it is most commonly recognised by young people and more appropriately covers all types of image sharing incidents.

The motivations for taking and sharing nude and semi-nude images, videos and live streams are not always sexually or criminally motivated. Such images may be created and shared consensually by young people who are in relationships, as well as between those who are not in a relationship.  It is also possible for a young person in a consensual relationship to be coerced into sharing an image with their partner. Incidents may also occur where:

  • children and young people find nudes and semi-nudes online and share them claiming to be from a peer
  • children and young people digitally manipulate an image of a young person into an existing nude online
  • images created or shared are used to abuse peers e.g. by selling images online or obtaining images to share more widely without consent to publicly shame

The sharing of nudes and semi-nudes can happen publicly online, in 1:1 messaging or via group chats and closed social media accounts.  They may include more than one child or young person. 

Many professionals may refer to 'nudes and semi-nudes' as:

  • youth produced sexual imagery or 'youth involved' sexual imagery
  • indecent imagery. This is the legal term used to define nude or semi-nude images and videos of children and young people under the age of 18. Further guidance on the law can be found in section 1.7
  • 'sexting'. Many adults may use this term, however some young people interpret sexting as 'writing and sharing explicit messages with people they know' rather than sharing images
  • image-based sexual abuse. This term may be used when referring to the non-consensual sharing of nudes and semi-nudes
  • terms such as 'revenge porn' and 'upskirting' are also used to refer to specific incidents of nudes and semi-nudes being shared. However, these terms are more often used in the context of adult-to-adult non-consensual image sharing offences outlined in s.33-35 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, Voyeurism (Offences) Act 2019 and s.67A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Useful Resources

  • Searching, screening and confiscation at school (2018) - guidance about the power schools have to screen and search pupils. Intended to help staff be confident in using the power. Covers use of the power to search pupils without consent, and school powers to seize and then confiscate items found during a search. It includes reference to the statutory guidance which schools must have regard to, and specific advice about 'sexting'.

  • Indecent images of children: guidance for young people (2017, updated 2019) - guidance on the law, terminology, reporting concerns. Signposting to other sources of useful information.