When teens share nudes

‘Nudes’ is the term most young people use to describe self-taken naked or semi-naked photographs or videos. These pictures are taken on an electronic device and can be shared online, for example in a group chat. A recent NSPCC survey found that 15% of young people aged 11-18 had received a request for a nude image (How safe are our children? 2019).

Any sharing of naked or semi-naked images of under-18s is illegal. This applies even if the sharing is within a loving relationship - although the police have clear guidance not to prosecute where there is no evidence of harmful sharing (for example two young people consensually sharing images between themselves and there is no further sharing).

Where there is evidence of harmful or coercive sharing, the police will prosecute. This can happen when images are shared around schools or within friendship groups without the consent of the person in the image, either as a joke or to cause the person harm. This is referred to as ‘non-consensual image sharing’, and it is illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.  


Words/phrases your child might use: 

Pics – another term used to describe nude images. 

N4n or nfn – stands for ‘nudes for nudes’. This phrase is used by people who want to show that they’re willing to send nude images if they receive them in return.
 
Exposed – used to describe a situation where someone has had their nude images shared widely around their peer group.

Bait out group or account – a group chat or social media account created specifically to share nude images of others. 


Young people who have experienced non-consensual image sharing say it is extremely distressing. It can cause serious long-term harm to their confidence, self-esteem, friendships and relationships. If young people find it hard to keep coming to school or concentrate on their studies, they might miss out on the educational opportunities and results they deserve. As a parent, you can help make sure your child does not harm others in this way.  

Why do images get shared around?

Sometimes the intention behind sharing images widely can be to harm the person in the image,  for example, after a relationship break up, or as a way to bully someone. But if you find out your child has shared an image of someone else, there may be a less malicious reason.

They might feel so shocked by a nude image they’ve been sent that they share it with more people without stopping to think about the harm it could cause – both to the person in that image and to others who see it. Or they share it because they think it’s funny, or just because it seems like everyone else is doing it.  
Whatever the reason, it’s always wrong (and illegal) for a child to share nude images of another young person.  

What to tell your child about the sharing of nude images 

Don’t wait for something to happen to talk to your child. You could raise the topic by talking about celebrities who have had something similar happen to them, and then move the conversation on to talking about cases in schools. If you are speaking to your child after an incident, tell them to follow this advice if a nude image gets shared around: 

  • Speak to an adult: Talk to your child about nude images, and let them know they can come to you if they are worried about images being shared. This may feel daunting, but CEOP have produced four films to help parents have these conversations.
  • We know lots of young people wouldn’t want to go to an adult in these situations because they believe there is nothing that an adult can do to help the situation. It’s important we raise their confidence that adults are able to help.
  • Repeat that non-consensual image sharing is wrong and so it’s ok to tell someone, just like we would if we witnessed other forms of abuse. Tell your child about reporting to CEOP if images are being shared.
  • Don’t send the image to anyone else: Each time an image is shared and more people see it, it causes further harm and embarrassment to the person in the image. If your child receives an image being shared around a peer group, they should tell someone and then delete it. 
  • Don’t judge the person in the image: Some young people make judgements about the person in a nude image. These attitudes can make it difficult for victims of non-consensual image sharing to speak out and get help.  There are lots of reasons why a young person might send a nude image and it’s important we don’t judge and blame them if their image is shared further. 
  • Don’t make any comments online about the person in the image: It’s abusive for young people to make harmful or derogatory comments about a person in a nude image, or to laugh along with those posting the images online without consent.  
  • Offer support to the person in the image: Make sure your child knows how important it is to support someone who has experienced the trauma of having their private images made public.
  • Support from friends is crucial in helping victims get through a difficult time. Simply saying to someone that you are there for them, and that you will not get involved in any sharing or commenting can help the victim to feel like they are not alone.

My child has had their nude image shared around – where can I get help?

Finding out that images or videos of your child have been circulated is likely to be stressful. It can be very confusing trying to figure out why this has all happened. Here are some clear simple steps you can  take in the immediate aftermath that will help:

  • Report the incident to the platform on which it has been shared e.g. YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram etc. and ask that the image is taken down. 
  • Encourage other people to report it to the platform if it is being shared publicly.
  • Report any malicious or harmful sharing to your local police force.
  • A child or young person can report to CEOP if images are being shared, either of themselves or of another young person. The child will then be contacted by a social worker at CEOP who will help them.
  • Speak to your child’s school, if you haven’t already, and ask what safeguarding procedures they are implementing to ensure the image is not shared further, and that children are supported.
Experts: 
Creative Commons Licence
NCA-CEOP Safety Centre
Are you worried about online sexual imagery or the way someone has been communicating with you or your child online?
Visit the safety centre

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