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Definitions of sexting vary but there is a general consensus that it involves ‘sexually explicit content communicated via text messages, smartphones, or visual and activities such as social networking sites’.

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.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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 bans sexting for anyone under the age of 18 years.

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. 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 (such as posting an indecent picture, which has a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison).
    • 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.

We recommend checking out these helpful articles in the Beacon app:

  • Sending nutes and secting: Talk early, talk often by The eSafety Office
  • Conversation starts: sexting by The eSafety Office
  • Sexting and where you stand when it comes to the law by ySafe

Simply search these titles in the FOR YOU menu or type 'sexting' for a full list of helpful articles and videos.

For further information and support regarding the legal consequences of sexting, please contact the following organisations:

To seek professional support for you or your child, we recommend any of the Support Services in the SUPPORT section of the Beacon app including: