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The facts of life for teens: Privacy and sexting

Revised: July 4, 2023

When it comes to privacy, the best approach for sexting is likely not to do it in the first place. Once your information is out there, it can be very difficult to control what happens to it.

That said, just because you have sent a sext, you still have rights. And just because someone has shared a sext with you, it does not mean that it is ok to keep it or to share it with others. While it can be really difficult to control what happens once an image, video or message is out there, there are things that you can do if you need help (see If You Become a Victim, below).

The information on this page will help you to better understand what sexting is, what the risks are, what to do if someone sends you a sext, and what to do if you feel someone is sharing your intimate images without your consent.

What is sexting?

Sexting involves sending sexual messages and images to someone else by text or private message – for example, by emailing or using an app or a video chat platform to send a revealing selfie.

What are the privacy risks associated with sexting?

For some, sexting can feel safe when it is done alone, in the privacy, comfort and security of your own bedroom or with a trusted partner. But the reality is that sexting can have negative consequences, especially when the sender has been pressured to send it.

Even if you send a sext to someone that you trust and who you think will keep it private, once you send it, research shows that it has a high chance of being forwarded on to someone else. Your image and text can be copied, pasted and transmitted anywhere else on the Internet or directly to someone else within minutes of you sending it. Sometimes they can be saved onto hard drives, printed out or e-mailed to others. This could result in reputational damage or emotional distress in the future.

Sometimes, sharing images can lead to sextortion. That is when someone threatens to send a sexual image or video of you to friends, family or other people if you do not provide more images or do what they ask.

If a device with your sexts – even ones that you ultimately decided not to share – gets hacked or stolen, they might be seen by people you did not want or expect to see them.

Tips to remember

Always get consent before sharing pictures of other people – sexually explicit or not. It is against the law to share intimate images without consent.

Make sure to lock your accounts and devices with a strong PIN or password and do not share it with anyone.

No one has the right to pressure you to share intimate images of yourself. Never do anything that you do not feel comfortable doing. It is always OK to say no. Do not pressure anyone else to share selfies.

Before sending any personal information or images, think about whether someone could use it to hurt you, and whether it could be shared with others.

Remember that your device or your partner’s could be hacked and that the images and messages can be stolen. Everything that you post or send electronically could become public.

If one of your peers shares a naked selfie or other kind of sext with you, keep it private – do not share it with anyone else. Deleting it will help ensure that it does not accidentally fall into other hands.

If you receive a sext from one of your peers that you did not ask for, delete it. Tell the person who sent it not to send any more and block them if they do. You should speak with a trusted adult if the person keeps sending sexts after you asked them not to.

If an adult, or someone you do not know personally, shares a private selfie or other kind of sext with you, tell a trusted adult. Do not respond to requests that you send one back.

Sextortion, like any kind of blackmail, is against the law. The people doing it can be very aggressive and are counting on you to be too embarrassed to tell authorities. They are often working in organized groups whose sole purpose is to make money. It can be very frightening, but it is always best to refuse to give in to threats. Keep the correspondence as evidence of the threat and talk to a trusted adult.

If you become a victim

There are tools to help you request the deletion of your personal information from platforms, and you can learn more about what kind of sharing might be illegal and where to report these issues. Help is available and you are not alone. helps teens stop the spread of sexual pictures or videos and provides support along the way.

MediaSmarts has information on what to do if someone sends you a sext and videos on sexting.

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