• Definitions of sexting vary but there is a general consensus that it involves ‘sexually explicit content communicated via text messages, smartphones, or visual and web 2.0 activities such as social networking sites’ (Ringrose et al. 2012, p. 9).
  • Behaviour can include nude or semi-nude still images or video captured of oneself, or of oneself and a sexual partner, ‘sexually suggestive messages’ including written texts sent via mobile or smart phone device, or through emails or instant messages in online chat programs (NCPTUP 2008). 
  • Images or videos that are not self-produced, for example, images or videos that have been downloaded of others – not of oneself – from the internet are not included in the definition of sexting, but possessing or forwarding such images or videos may still be an offence.
  • When young people under the age of 18 years are involved, sexting is considered as a form of child pornography and treated as a crime. It is an offence to take, keep, send or ask for child pornography.
  • Although Western Australia’s laws consider the age of 16 years as the age of consent for sex or sexting, the national law of Australia make it illegal to send, request or possess pictures or videos of anyone under 18, even if the offender is also under 18. This law applies to anyone using the Internet or a mobile phone despite the different laws in Western Australia. 
  • The maximum jail sentence for child pornography is up to 15 years, and can additionally place the culprit on the sex offender register. 
  • An image is considered as child pornography if a young person is showing their private parts, posing in a sexual way, undertaking a sexual act or in the presence of someone who is doing any of these, and a reasonable adult would find that image offensive. Child pornography can include either real life or photo-shopped pictures. 
  • Sexting is not necessarily punished as severely as child pornography. When child pornography laws passed, no one realised that they might one day be used against young people who took pictures of themselves or of others their own age. As such, the police may not enforce child pornography laws and instead decide to do one of the following:
    • Charge the offender with a lesser crime.
    • Send the offender to youth justice conferencing.
    • Give the offender a warning.
    • Let the parents or school decide the final punishment. 
  • These punishments not only apply to those who have received or distributed sexts/sexual images. Even if a young person has taken a photo of his/herself and sent it willingly, the above legal consequences can apply. 
  • Speak with your child and inform them about the legal consequences of sexting. Let them know that sending or possessing child pornography is illegal in Australia. Encourage them to be careful about sending and sharing sexual images through their phone or the Internet, even if this is with consent. 
  • For further information and support regarding the legal consequences of sexting, please contact the following organisations:
  • The Naked Truth app